Phylogenetic Structure of Tree Species across Different Life Stages from Seedlings to Canopy Trees in a Subtropical Evergreen Broad-Leaved Forest.
ABSTRACT: Investigating patterns of phylogenetic structure across different life stages of tree species in forests is crucial to understanding forest community assembly, and investigating forest gap influence on the phylogenetic structure of forest regeneration is necessary for understanding forest community assembly. Here, we examine the phylogenetic structure of tree species across life stages from seedlings to canopy trees, as well as forest gap influence on the phylogenetic structure of forest regeneration in a forest of the subtropical region in China. We investigate changes in phylogenetic relatedness (measured as NRI) of tree species from seedlings, saplings, treelets to canopy trees; we compare the phylogenetic turnover (measured as ?NRI) between canopy trees and seedlings in forest understory with that between canopy trees and seedlings in forest gaps. We found that phylogenetic relatedness generally increases from seedlings through saplings and treelets up to canopy trees, and that phylogenetic relatedness does not differ between seedlings in forest understory and those in forest gaps, but phylogenetic turnover between canopy trees and seedlings in forest understory is lower than that between canopy trees and seedlings in forest gaps. We conclude that tree species tend to be more closely related from seedling to canopy layers, and that forest gaps alter the seedling phylogenetic turnover of the studied forest. It is likely that the increasing trend of phylogenetic clustering as tree stem size increases observed in this subtropical forest is primarily driven by abiotic filtering processes, which select a set of closely related evergreen broad-leaved tree species whose regeneration has adapted to the closed canopy environments of the subtropical forest developed under the regional monsoon climate.
Project description:Tree growth and survival differ strongly between canopy trees (those directly exposed to overhead light), and understory trees. However, the structural complexity of many tropical forests makes it difficult to determine canopy positions. The integration of remote sensing and ground-based data enables this determination and measurements of how canopy and understory trees differ in structure and dynamics. Here we analyzed 2 cm resolution RGB imagery collected by a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), also known as drone, together with two decades of bi-annual tree censuses for 2 ha of old growth forest in the Central Amazon. We delineated all crowns visible in the imagery and linked each crown to a tagged stem through field work. Canopy trees constituted 40% of the 1244 inventoried trees with diameter at breast height (DBH) > 10 cm, and accounted for ~70% of aboveground carbon stocks and wood productivity. The probability of being in the canopy increased logistically with tree diameter, passing through 50% at 23.5 cm DBH. Diameter growth was on average twice as large in canopy trees as in understory trees. Growth rates were unrelated to diameter in canopy trees and positively related to diameter in understory trees, consistent with the idea that light availability increases with diameter in the understory but not the canopy. The whole stand size distribution was best fit by a Weibull distribution, whereas the separate size distributions of understory trees or canopy trees > 25 cm DBH were equally well fit by exponential and Weibull distributions, consistent with mechanistic forest models. The identification and field mapping of crowns seen in a high resolution orthomosaic revealed new patterns in the structure and dynamics of trees of canopy vs. understory at this site, demonstrating the value of traditional tree censuses with drone remote sensing.
Project description:Forest succession from Pinus to Quercus has often been observed in temperate forest, although the succession mechanism is not clearly understood. This study investigated factors that affect the succession of forests from pine to oak, using forest vegetation inventory data at plots at Kwan-ak mountain in Korea. Analyses of understory canopy coverage, light intensity, and tree numbers and ages in P. densiflora forests indicate that Q. mongolica can only invade these forests before understory shrub establishment. The results from analyses of all environmental factors indicate that similar adverse effects from environmental factors occur in established P. densiflora and Q. mongolica forests that inhibit Q. mongolica seedling survival. However, the observed survival rate of Q. mongolica seedlings under P. densiflora during winter were much higher than Q. mongolica seedlings under Q. mongolica trees, and it is due to accumulated snow over Q. mongolica forest litter which breaks or inhibits the emergence of Q. mongolica seedlings. Protecting seedlings with plastic cups significantly increased the survival rate which confirms that forest floor litter acts as a filter for the regeneration and succession of Q. mongolica forests. This paper thus concludes that understory shrubs and forest litter affect the succession dynamics of P. densiflora and Q. mongolica forests.
Project description:Seedling emergence and establishment are fragile processes that determine the direction and structure of forest succession and regeneration. However, seedling emergence and establishment are easily affected by biotic and abiotic (environmental) factors. A dense and expanding understory of dwarf bamboo is one such important factor that can seriously hinder the seedling regeneration. We conducted a field experiment to investigate the emergence and establishment of canopy tree seedlings under artificially controlled densities of dwarf bamboo. We found that understory dwarf bamboo obstructed seedling emergence but reduced the death of seedlings. Although understory dwarf bamboo reduced the median retention time of seedlings, dense bamboo increased the mean survival time of seedlings. Our results suggest that understory dwarf bamboo has multiple selectivities for tree seedling emergence and establishment: high-density dwarf bamboo was beneficial to evergreen species but lower-density of bamboo was conducive to the survival of deciduous species, it means the dwarf bamboo potentially alters successional trajectories of forest communities. Path analysis revealed that the most important factors affecting tree seedling emergence and death were the abundance of seeds in the seed bank and the density of emerged seedlings, and that the soil temperature promoted seedling emergence but increased seedling death, the thickness of litter limited seedling emergence, and the leaf area index of the bamboo canopy limited seedling death. The present study suggests that dwarf bamboo can directly alter the microenvironment, significantly reducing light levels and soil temperature but increasing the thickness of litter and soil humus, thereby indirectly impacting the regeneration of tree seedlings. Our results indicate that various factors affected seedling emergence, and there were complex indirect relationships among these factors. In general, biological factors had a stronger influence on tree seedling regeneration than environmental factors.
Project description:Information on understory composition and its relationships with the overstory tree canopy, especially leaf area index (LAI), is crucially needed in, e.g., modeling land-atmosphere interactions and productivity of forests. There are also several global LAI products produced from satellite data which need to be validated with ground reference data. However, to date, only scarce field data on simultaneous structural properties of under- and overstory vegetation, and tree canopy LAI, have been available in boreal forests. This paper shows how understory composition and fractional cover of different species types varies in a boreal forest site, and how it is linked to structural properties of the tree layer. The study is based on 301 understory plots collected in an area of ?16?km2 around Hyytiälä forestry field station, Finland (61°50'N, 24°17'E) in a southern boreal forest site. Forest understory plot data was accompanied with measurements of both standard forest inventory variables and optically-based canopy light transmittance data. Clear differences in average species composition between different site fertility types were observed, but also large variation within each site fertility type was noted. Forest understory composition was better correlated with structural forest canopy measures (e.g., tree canopy LAI, canopy cover, canopy openness) than with traditional forest inventory variables such as tree height or diameter. Forest canopy LAI and the fractional cover of understory were strongly related, especially in more fertile sites. Our results highlight the role of tree canopy structural metrics as modifiers of the understory light climate and growing conditions, also, in boreal forests.
Project description:Successful growth of a tree is the result of combined effects of biotic and abiotic factors. It is important to understand how biotic and abiotic factors affect changes in forest structure and dynamics under environmental fluctuations. In this study, we explored the effects of initial size [diameter at breast height (DBH)], neighborhood competition, and site condition on tree growth, based on a 3-year monitoring of tree growth rate in a permanent plot (120 × 80 m) of montane Fagus engleriana-Cyclobalanopsis multiervis mixed forest on Mt. Shennongjia, China. We measured DBH increments every 6 months from October 2011 to October 2014 by field-made dendrometers and calculated the mean annual growth rate over the 3 years for each individual tree. We also measured and calculated twelve soil properties and five topographic variables for 384 grids of 5 × 5 m. We defined two distance-dependent neighborhood competition indices with and without considerations of phylogenetic relatedness between trees and tested for significant differences in growth rates among functional groups. On average, trees in this mixed montane forest grew 0.07 cm year-1 in DBH. Deciduous, canopy, and early-successional species grew faster than evergreen, small-statured, and late-successional species, respectively. Growth rates increased with initial DBH, but were not significantly related to neighborhood competition and site condition for overall trees. Phylogenetic relatedness between trees did not influence the neighborhood competition. Different factors were found to influence tree growth rates of different functional groups: Initial DBH was the dominant factor for all tree groups; neighborhood competition within 5 m radius decreased growth rates of evergreen trees; and site condition tended to be more related to growth rates of fast-growing trees (deciduous, canopy, pioneer, and early-successional species) than the slow-growing trees (evergreen, understory, and late-successional species).
Project description:In forests, the vulnerable seedling stage is largely influenced by the canopy, which modifies the surrounding environment. Consequently, any alteration in the characteristics of the canopy, such as those promoted by forest dieback, might impact regeneration dynamics. Our work analyzes the interaction between canopy neighbors and seedlings in Mediterranean forests affected by the decline of their dominant species (Quercus suber). Our objective was to understand how the impacts of neighbor trees and shrubs on recruitment could affect future dynamics of these declining forests. Seeds of the three dominant tree species (Quercus suber, Olea europaea and Quercus canariensis) were sown in six sites during two consecutive years. Using a spatially-explicit, neighborhood approach we developed models that explained the observed spatial variation in seedling emergence, survival, growth and photochemical efficiency as a function of the size, identity, health, abundance and distribution of adult trees and shrubs in the neighborhood. We found strong neighborhood effects for all the performance estimators, particularly seedling emergence and survival. Tree neighbors positively affected emergence, independently of species identity or health. Alternatively, seedling survival was much lower in neighborhoods dominated by defoliated and dead Q. suber trees than in neighborhoods dominated by healthy trees. For the two oak species, these negative effects were consistent over the three years of the experimental seedlings. These results indicate that ongoing changes in species' relative abundance and canopy trees' health might alter the successional trajectories of Mediterranean oak-forests through neighbor-specific impacts on seedlings. The recruitment failure of dominant late-successional oaks in the gaps opened after Q. suber death would indirectly favor the establishment of other coexisting woody species, such as drought-tolerant shrubs. This could lead current forests to shift into open systems with lower tree cover. Adult canopy decline would therefore represent an additional factor threatening the recruitment of Quercus forests worldwide.
Project description:The degradation of natural forests to modified forests threatens subtropical and tropical biodiversity worldwide. Yet, species responses to forest modification vary considerably. Furthermore, effects of forest modification can differ, whether with respect to diversity components (taxonomic or phylogenetic) or to local (?-diversity) and regional (?-diversity) spatial scales. This real-world complexity has so far hampered our understanding of subtropical and tropical biodiversity patterns in human-modified forest landscapes. In a subtropical South African forest landscape, we studied the responses of three successive plant life stages (adult trees, saplings, seedlings) and of birds to five different types of forest modification distinguished by the degree of within-forest disturbance and forest loss. Responses of the two taxa differed markedly. Thus, the taxonomic ?-diversity of birds was negatively correlated with the diversity of all plant life stages and, contrary to plant diversity, increased with forest disturbance. Conversely, forest disturbance reduced the phylogenetic ?-diversity of all plant life stages but not that of birds. Forest loss neither affected taxonomic nor phylogenetic diversity of any taxon. On the regional scale, taxonomic but not phylogenetic ?-diversity of both taxa was well predicted by variation in forest disturbance and forest loss. In contrast to adult trees, the phylogenetic diversity of saplings and seedlings showed signs of contemporary environmental filtering. In conclusion, forest modification in this subtropical landscape strongly shaped both local and regional biodiversity but with contrasting outcomes. Phylogenetic diversity of plants may be more threatened than that of mobile species such as birds. The reduced phylogenetic diversity of saplings and seedlings suggests losses in biodiversity that are not visible in adult trees, potentially indicating time-lags and contemporary shifts in forest regeneration. The different responses of taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity to forest modifications imply that biodiversity conservation in this subtropical landscape requires the preservation of natural and modified forests.
Project description:The patterns and drivers of soil microbial communities in forest plantations remain inadequate although they have been extensively studied in natural forest and grassland ecosystems. In this study, using data from 12 subtropical plantation sites, we found that the overstory tree biomass and tree cover increased with increasing plantation age. However, there was a decline in the aboveground biomass and species richness of the understory herbs as plantation age increased. Biomass of all microbial community groups (i.e. fungi, bacteria, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and actinomycete) decreased with increasing plantation age; however, the biomass ratio of fungi to bacteria did not change with increasing plantation age. Variation in most microbial community groups was mainly explained by the understory herb (i.e. herb biomass and herb species richness) and overstory trees (i.e. tree biomass and tree cover), while soils (i.e. soil moisture, soil organic carbon, and soil pH) explained a relative low percentage of the variation. Our results demonstrate that the understory herb layer exerts strong controls on soil microbial community in subtropical plantations. These findings suggest that maintenance of plantation health may need to consider the management of understory herb in order to increase the potential of plantation ecosystems as fast-response carbon sinks.
Project description:In closed-canopy forests, gap formation and closure are thought to be major drivers of forest dynamics. Crown defoliation by insects, however, may also influence understory resource levels and thus forest dynamics. We evaluate the effect of a forest tent caterpillar outbreak on understory light availability, soil nutrient levels and tree seedling height growth in six sites with contrasting levels of canopy defoliation in a hardwood forest in northern lower Michigan. We compared resource levels and seedling growth of six hardwood species before, during and in the three years after the outbreak (2008-2012). Canopy openness increased strongly during the forest tent caterpillar outbreak in the four moderately and severely defoliated sites, but not in lightly defoliated sites. Total inorganic soil nitrogen concentrations increased in response to the outbreak in moderately and severely defoliated sites. The increase in total inorganic soil nitrogen was driven by a strong increase in soil nitrate, and tended to become stronger with increasing site defoliation. Seedling height growth increased for all species in the moderately and severely defoliated sites, but not in lightly defoliated sites, either during the outbreak year or in the year after the outbreak. Growth increases did not become stronger with increasing site defoliation, but were strongest in a moderately defoliated site with high soil nutrient levels. Growth increases tended to be strongest for the shade intolerant species Fraxinus americana and Prunus serotina, and the shade tolerant species Ostrya virginiana. The strong growth response of F. americana and P. serotina suggests that recurring forest tent caterpillar outbreaks may facilitate the persistence of shade intolerant species in the understory in the absence of canopy gaps. Overall, our results suggest that recurrent canopy defoliation resulting from cyclical forest insect outbreaks may be an additional driver of dynamics in temperate closed-canopy forests.
Project description:The abandonment of agricultural use is a common driver of spontaneous reforestation by alien trees. The N-fixing black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) is a major alien invader of old fields in Europe. Here we show that canopy dominance by this tree may filter the frequency distribution of plant functional traits in the understory of secondary woodlands. Higher soil C/N ratio and available P are associated with black locust stands, while higher soil phenols associate with native tree stands. These environmental effects result in differences in understory flowering periods, reproduction types and life forms. Our findings emphasize the effect of a major alien tree on functional plant trait composition in the early stages of spontaneous reforestation of abandoned lands, implying the development of a novel forest ecosystem on a large geographical scale.