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Mechanisms promoting tree species coexistence: experimental evidence with saplings of subtropical forest ecosystems of China


Lang, Anne C; Härdtle, Werner; Baruffol, Martin; Böhnke, Martin; Bruelheide, Helge; Schmid, Bernhard; von Wehrden, Henrik; von Oheimb, Goddert (2012). Mechanisms promoting tree species coexistence: experimental evidence with saplings of subtropical forest ecosystems of China. Journal of Vegetation Science, 23:837-846.

Abstract

Questions: The maintainence of a diverse sapling pool is of particular importance for the regeneration and persistance of species-rich forest ecosystems. However, the mechanisms of coexistence of saplings have rarely been studied experimentally. We thus ask: Do species richness, species composition, species identity and stand density have effects on the coexistence, growth patterns and crown architecture of tree saplings? Location: Jiangxi Province, Southeast China Methods: In a field experiment, we manipulated the local neighbourhood of saplings of the four earlysuccessional subtropical species (Schima superba, Elaeocarpus decipiens, Quercus serrata and Castanea henryi) with regard to species richness (1, 2 and 4 species), species composition (monocultures, six two-species combinations and one four-species combination) and stand density (low, intermediate and high). We tested for treatment effects and the impact of species identity on growth variables, biomass allocation, crown architectural traits and branch demography. Results: Species richness was a poor predictor of all response variables, but enhanced pruning and branch turnover. In contrast, species composition proved to be of great importance for growth, biomass allocation, crown architecture and branch demography. Local neighbourhood interactions of saplings were characterised by complementary or facilitative as well as by competitive mechanisms. Intraspecific competition was higher than interspecific competition for two species (C. henryi, Q. serrata) depending on the respective species combination. To a high degree the competitive ability of species can be explained by species identity. Competition for light likely played a major role in our experiment, as evidenced by the strong response of crown architecture and branch demography to the manipulated predictor variables. Conclusions: Effects of species composition and species identity on growth rates and crown architectural variables of tree saplings point to niche separation as a mechanism of species coexistence, while effects of species richness were not yet prominent at the sapling life stage.

Abstract

Questions: The maintainence of a diverse sapling pool is of particular importance for the regeneration and persistance of species-rich forest ecosystems. However, the mechanisms of coexistence of saplings have rarely been studied experimentally. We thus ask: Do species richness, species composition, species identity and stand density have effects on the coexistence, growth patterns and crown architecture of tree saplings? Location: Jiangxi Province, Southeast China Methods: In a field experiment, we manipulated the local neighbourhood of saplings of the four earlysuccessional subtropical species (Schima superba, Elaeocarpus decipiens, Quercus serrata and Castanea henryi) with regard to species richness (1, 2 and 4 species), species composition (monocultures, six two-species combinations and one four-species combination) and stand density (low, intermediate and high). We tested for treatment effects and the impact of species identity on growth variables, biomass allocation, crown architectural traits and branch demography. Results: Species richness was a poor predictor of all response variables, but enhanced pruning and branch turnover. In contrast, species composition proved to be of great importance for growth, biomass allocation, crown architecture and branch demography. Local neighbourhood interactions of saplings were characterised by complementary or facilitative as well as by competitive mechanisms. Intraspecific competition was higher than interspecific competition for two species (C. henryi, Q. serrata) depending on the respective species combination. To a high degree the competitive ability of species can be explained by species identity. Competition for light likely played a major role in our experiment, as evidenced by the strong response of crown architecture and branch demography to the manipulated predictor variables. Conclusions: Effects of species composition and species identity on growth rates and crown architectural variables of tree saplings point to niche separation as a mechanism of species coexistence, while effects of species richness were not yet prominent at the sapling life stage.

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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:2012
Deposited On:15 Feb 2013 13:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:27
Publisher:Opulus Press
ISSN:1100-9233
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1654-1103.2012.01403.x

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