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Early subtropical forest growth is driven by community mean trait values and functional diversity rather than the abiotic environment


Kröber, Wenzel; Li, Ying; Härdtle, Werner; Ma, Keping; Schmid, Bernhard; Schmidt, Karsten; Scholten, Thomas; Seidler, Gunnar; von Oheimb, Goddert; Welk, Erik; Wirth, Christian; Bruelheide, Helge (2015). Early subtropical forest growth is driven by community mean trait values and functional diversity rather than the abiotic environment. Ecology and Evolution, 5(17):3541-3556.

Abstract

While functional diversity (FD) has been shown to be positively related to a number of ecosystem functions including biomass production, it may have a much less pronounced effect than that of environmental factors or species specific properties. Leaf and wood traits can be considered particularly relevant to tree growth, as they reflect a trade-off between resources invested into growth and persistence. Our study focussed on the degree to which early forest growth was driven by FD, the environment (11 variables characterizing abiotic habitat conditions), and community-weighted mean (CWM) values of species traits in the context of a large-scale tree diversity experiment (BEF-China). Growth rates of trees with respect to crown diameter were aggregated across 231 plots (hosting between one and 23 tree species) and related to environmental variables, FD, and CWM, the latter two of which were based on 41 plant functional traits. The effects of each of the three predictor groups were analyzed separately by mixed model optimization and jointly by variance partitioning.
Numerous single traits predicted plot-level tree growth, both in the models based on CWMs and FD, but none of the environmental variables was able to predict tree growth. In the best models, environment and FD explained only 4 and 31% of variation in crown growth rates, respectively, while CWM trait values explained 42%. In total, the best models accounted for 51% of crown growth. The marginal role of the selected environmental variables was unexpected, given the high topographic heterogeneity and large size of the experiment, as was the significant impact of FD, demonstrating that positive diversity effects already occur during the early stages in tree plantations.

Abstract

While functional diversity (FD) has been shown to be positively related to a number of ecosystem functions including biomass production, it may have a much less pronounced effect than that of environmental factors or species specific properties. Leaf and wood traits can be considered particularly relevant to tree growth, as they reflect a trade-off between resources invested into growth and persistence. Our study focussed on the degree to which early forest growth was driven by FD, the environment (11 variables characterizing abiotic habitat conditions), and community-weighted mean (CWM) values of species traits in the context of a large-scale tree diversity experiment (BEF-China). Growth rates of trees with respect to crown diameter were aggregated across 231 plots (hosting between one and 23 tree species) and related to environmental variables, FD, and CWM, the latter two of which were based on 41 plant functional traits. The effects of each of the three predictor groups were analyzed separately by mixed model optimization and jointly by variance partitioning.
Numerous single traits predicted plot-level tree growth, both in the models based on CWMs and FD, but none of the environmental variables was able to predict tree growth. In the best models, environment and FD explained only 4 and 31% of variation in crown growth rates, respectively, while CWM trait values explained 42%. In total, the best models accounted for 51% of crown growth. The marginal role of the selected environmental variables was unexpected, given the high topographic heterogeneity and large size of the experiment, as was the significant impact of FD, demonstrating that positive diversity effects already occur during the early stages in tree plantations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:June 2015
Deposited On:13 Sep 2016 13:06
Last Modified:14 Sep 2016 08:16
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:2045-7758
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1604

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