Resource partitioning, facilitation, and sampling effect are the three mechanisms behind the biodiversity effect, which is depicted usually as the effect of plant-species richness on aboveground net primary production. These mechanisms operate simultaneously but their relative importance and interactions are difficult to unravel experimentally. Thus, niche differentiation and facilitation have been lumped together and separated from the sampling effect. Here, we propose three hypotheses about interactions among the three mechanisms and test them using a simulation model. The model simulated water movement through soil and vegetation, and net primary production mimicking the Patagonian steppe. Using the model, we created grass and shrub monocultures and mixtures, controlled root overlap and grass water-use efficiency (WUE) to simulate gradients of biodiversity, resource partitioning and facilitation. The presence of shrubs facilitated grass growth by increasing its WUE and in turn increased the sampling effect, whereas root overlap (resource partitioning) had, on average, no effect on sampling effect. Interestingly, resource partitioning and facilitation interacted so the effect of facilitation on sampling effect decreased as resource partitioning increased. Sampling effect was enhanced by the difference between the two functional groups in their efficiency in using resources. Morphological and physiological differences make one group outperform the other; once these differences were established further differences did not enhance the sampling effect. In addition, grass WUE and root overlap positively influence the biodiversity effect but showed no interactions.