Effects of simulated historical tree litter raking on the understorey vegetation in a central European forest.
ABSTRACT: Question:What is the impact of simulated historical tree litter removal on understorey plants and soil properties in a temperate deciduous forest? What is the role of seasonal timing of tree litter removal on understorey plants? Location:Podyjí National Park, Czech Republic. Methods:We conducted an experiment in a randomized complete block design of 45 plots (5 × 5 m). Each block (N = 15) consisted of one plot for each of the three treatments. Treatments consisted of (i) tree litter removal during spring, (ii) tree litter removal during autumn, or (iii) no litter removal as control treatment. These treatments were repeated for a duration of four years. In each plot we recorded the understorey plant species composition and collected soil samples prior to treatment (year 0) and in each subsequent year (years 1-4). Temporal trends in species richness were analysed using repeated measures ANOVAs. The impact of the treatments on vegetation composition over time was analysed using Principal Response Curves. Results:Total species richness per plot significantly changed over time, but this was not related to treatment. Annual species richness increased significantly, but only for the autumn treatment. Annual species also showed the highest inter-annual variation. Endangered species were not affected. When compared to the control treatment, the effect of autumn raking on species composition was stronger than the effect of spring raking. Although the amount of removed nutrients substantially exceeded ambient nitrogen input, no changes in soil conditions were detected. Conclusions:The season in which tree litter removal took place had a small but significant impact on the understorey vegetation, in particular affecting the germination and establishment of annual species. The large inter-annual variation in species richness calls for a long-term field experiment. The removal of nutrients via litter raking greatly exceeds atmospheric nutrient deposition, warranting a further investigation of litter raking as a potential tool for forest conservation.
Project description:The impact of anthropogenic habitat alteration on amphibians was investigated, employing an investigative focus on leaf-litter and semi-aquatic species across different habitat alteration types. The habitat alteration types which include primary forest, selectively logged primary forest, secondary forest, abandoned farm areas and pasture (this represents a gradient of habitat alteration ranging from least altered to most altered, respectively) also encompass two habitat types: stream and terrestrial. Species assemblage was compared between habitat alteration types and habitat types, where a total 360 leaf-litter and semi-aquatic amphibians were observed (15 species, 6 families). It was found that amphibian abundance was significantly higher in both forest and stream habitat, and species richness did not differ with respect to habitat alteration type. It was determined, however, that species richness was highly dependent on habitat type (significantly higher in stream habitat). Meanwhile, diversity (Shannon-Wiener) was significantly higher in both forest and stream habitat, and species composition differed markedly between habitat alteration types for stream strip plots. Forest habitat exhibited domination by forest specialist species, while altered habitat (abandoned farm areas and pasture) exhibited domination by open-habitat specialist species. Additionally, strong relationships were found between species composition and abundance, as well as richness and diversity (within the measured habitat structures and observed microclimatic conditions). Analyses determined that the higher abundance of leaf-litter and semi-aquatic amphibians was best explained by higher DBH (1.3 m from the ground) and lower temperature and the higher species richness was best explained by higher understorey density. Additionally, higher diversity was associated with increasing understorey density, tree density and temperature. In general, the assemblage of leaf-litter and semi-aquatic amphibians in the lowland tropical rainforest in northeastern Leyte was affected by habitat alteration, highlighting the on-going importance of conservation efforts.
Project description:Despite an increasing amount of data on the effects of tropical land use on continental forest fauna and flora, it is debatable whether the choice of the indicator variables allows for a proper evaluation of the role of modified habitats in mitigating the global biodiversity crisis. While many single-taxon studies have highlighted that species with narrow geographic ranges especially suffer from habitat modification, there is no multi-taxa study available which consistently focuses on geographic range composition of the studied indicator groups. We compiled geographic range data for 180 bird, 119 butterfly, 204 tree and 219 understorey plant species sampled along a gradient of habitat modification ranging from near-primary forest through young secondary forest and agroforestry systems to annual crops in the southwestern lowlands of Cameroon. We found very similar patterns of declining species richness with increasing habitat modification between taxon-specific groups of similar geographic range categories. At the 8 km(2) spatial level, estimated richness of endemic species declined in all groups by 21% (birds) to 91% (trees) from forests to annual crops, while estimated richness of widespread species increased by +101% (trees) to +275% (understorey plants), or remained stable (-2%, butterflies). Even traditional agroforestry systems lost estimated endemic species richness by -18% (birds) to -90% (understorey plants). Endemic species richness of one taxon explained between 37% and 57% of others (positive correlations) and taxon-specific richness in widespread species explained up to 76% of variation in richness of endemic species (negative correlations). The key implication of this study is that the range size aspect is fundamental in assessments of conservation value via species inventory data from modified habitats. The study also suggests that even ecologically friendly agricultural matrices may be of much lower value for tropical conservation than indicated by mere biodiversity value.
Project description:The effect of litter on seedling establishment can influence species richness in plant communities. The effect of litter depends on amount, and also on litter type, but relatively little is known about the species-specific effects of litter. We conducted a factorial greenhouse experiment to examine the effect of litter type, using two woody species that commonly co-occur in boreonemoral forest--evergreen spruce (Picea abies), deciduous hazel (Corylus avellana), and a mixture of the two species--and litter amount--shallow (4 mm), deep (12 mm) and leachate--on seedling emergence and biomass of three understorey species. The effect of litter amount on seedling emergence was highly dependent on litter type; while spruce needle litter had a significant negative effect that increased with depth, seedling emergence in the presence of hazel broadleaf litter did not differ from control pots containing no litter. Mixed litter of both species also had a negative effect on seedling emergence that was intermediate compared to the single-species treatments. Spruce litter had a marginally positive (shallow) or neutral effect (deep) on seedling biomass, while hazel and mixed litter treatments had significant positive effects on biomass that increased with depth. We found non-additive effects of litter mixtures on seedling biomass indicating that high quality hazel litter can reduce the negative effects of spruce. Hazel litter does not inhibit seedling emergence; it increases seedling growth, and creates better conditions for seedling growth in mixtures by reducing the suppressive effect of spruce litter, having a positive effect on understorey species richness.
Project description:Tracking the response of forest ecosystems to climate change demands large (≥1 ha) monitoring plots that are repeatedly measured over long time frames and arranged across macro-ecological gradients. Continental scale networks of permanent forest plots have identified links between climate and carbon fluxes by monitoring trends in tree growth, mortality and recruitment. The relationship between tree growth and climate in Australia has been recently articulated through analysis of data from smaller forest plots, but conclusions were limited by (a) absence of data on recruitment and mortality, (b) exclusion of non-eucalypt species, and (c) lack of knowledge of stand age or disturbance histories. To remedy these gaps we established the Ausplots Forest Monitoring Network: a continental scale network of 48 1 ha permanent plots in highly productive tall eucalypt forests in the mature growth stage. These plots are distributed across cool temperate, Mediterranean, subtropical and tropical climates (mean annual precipitation 850 to 1900 mm per year; mean annual temperature 6 to 21°C). Aboveground carbon stocks (AGC) in these forests are dominated by eucalypts (90% of AGC) whilst non-eucalypts in the understorey dominated species diversity and tree abundance (84% of species; 60% of stems). Aboveground carbon stocks were negatively related to mean annual temperature, with forests at the warm end of the temperature range storing approximately half the amount of carbon as forests at the cool end of the temperature range. This may reflect thermal constraints on tree growth detected through other plot networks and physiological studies. Through common protocols and careful sampling design, the Ausplots Forest Monitoring Network will facilitate the integration of tall eucalypt forests into established global forest monitoring initiatives. In the context of projections of rapidly warming and drying climates in Australia, this plot network will enable detection of links between climate and growth, mortality and carbon dynamics of eucalypt forests.
Project description:Effects of tree species diversity on decomposition can operate via a multitude of mechanism, including alterations of microclimate by the forest canopy. Studying such effects in natural settings is complicated by the fact that topography also affects microclimate and thus decomposition, so that effects of diversity are more difficult to isolate. Here, we quantified decomposition rates of standard litter in young subtropical forest stands, separating effects of canopy tree species richness and topography, and quantifying their direct and micro-climate-mediated components. Our litterbag study was carried out at two experimental sites of a biodiversity-ecosystem functioning field experiment in south-east China (BEF-China). The field sites display strong topographical heterogeneity and were planted with tree communities ranging from monocultures to mixtures of 24 native subtropical tree species. Litter bags filled with senescent leaves of three native tree species were placed from Nov. 2011 to Oct. 2012 on 134 plots along the tree species diversity gradient. Topographic features were measured for all and microclimate in a subset of plots. Stand species richness, topography and microclimate explained important fractions of the variations in litter decomposition rates, with diversity and topographic effects in part mediated by microclimatic changes. Tree stands were 2-3 years old, but nevertheless tree species diversity explained more variation (54.3%) in decomposition than topography (7.7%). Tree species richness slowed litter decomposition, an effect that slightly depended on litter species identity. A large part of the variance in decomposition was explained by tree species composition, with the presence of three tree species playing a significant role. Microclimate explained 31.4% of the variance in decomposition, and was related to lower soil moisture. Within this microclimate effect, species diversity (without composition) explained 8.9% and topography 34.4% of variance. Topography mainly affected diurnal temperature amplitudes by varying incident solar radiation.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Many studies have analysed the effect of browsing by large herbivores on tree species but far fewer studies have studied their effect on understorey shrubs and herbs. Moreover, while many studies have shown that forest features and management intensity strongly influence understorey vegetation, the influence of such variation on the effect of large-herbivore exclusion is not known.<h4>This study</h4>In this study, we analysed changes of species richness, Shannon diversity, evenness and cover of understorey herbs and shrubs after excluding large herbivores for seven years on 147 forest sites, differing in management intensity and forest features, in three regions of Germany (Schwäbische Alb, Hainich-Dün, Schorfheide-Chorin). Further, we studied how the effect of large-herbivore exclusion on understorey vegetation was influenced by forest management intensity and several forest features.<h4>Results</h4>As expected, exclusion of large herbivores resulted in highly variable results. Nevertheless, we found that large-herbivore exclusion significantly increased cover and Shannon diversity of shrub communities, while it did not affect herb communities. Forest management intensity did not influence the effect of large-herbivore exclusion while some forest features, most often relative conifer cover, did. In forests with high relative conifer cover, large-herbivore exclusion decreased species richness and cover of herbs and increased Shannon diversity of herbs and shrubs, while in forests with low relative conifer cover large-herbivore exclusion increased species richness and cover of herbs, and decreased Shannon diversity of herbs and shrubs.<h4>Conclusion</h4>We suggest that browsing by large herbivores should be included when studying understorey shrub communities, however when studying understorey herb communities the effects of browsing are less general and depend on forest features.
Project description:The potential influence of diversity on ecosystem structure and function remains a topic of significant debate, especially for tropical forests where diversity can range widely. We used Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) methodology to establish forest dynamics plots in montane wet forest and lowland dry forest on Hawai'i Island. We compared the species diversity, tree density, basal area, biomass, and size class distributions between the two forest types. We then examined these variables across tropical forests within the CTFS network. Consistent with other island forests, the Hawai'i forests were characterized by low species richness and very high relative dominance. The two Hawai'i forests were floristically distinct, yet similar in species richness (15 vs. 21 species) and stem density (3078 vs. 3486/ha). While these forests were selected for their low invasive species cover relative to surrounding forests, both forests averaged 5->50% invasive species cover; ongoing removal will be necessary to reduce or prevent competitive impacts, especially from woody species. The montane wet forest had much larger trees, resulting in eightfold higher basal area and above-ground biomass. Across the CTFS network, the Hawaiian montane wet forest was similar to other tropical forests with respect to diameter distributions, density, and aboveground biomass, while the Hawai'i lowland dry forest was similar in density to tropical forests with much higher diversity. These findings suggest that forest structural variables can be similar across tropical forests independently of species richness. The inclusion of low-diversity Pacific Island forests in the CTFS network provides an ?80-fold range in species richness (15-1182 species), six-fold variation in mean annual rainfall (835-5272 mm yr(-1)) and 1.8-fold variation in mean annual temperature (16.0-28.4°C). Thus, the Hawaiian forest plots expand the global forest plot network to enable testing of ecological theory for links among species diversity, environmental variation and ecosystem function.
Project description:Plants commonly respond to UV radiation through the accumulation of flavonoids and related phenolic compounds which potentially ameliorate UV-damage to crucial internal structures. However, the seasonal dynamics of leaf flavonoids corresponding to epidermal UV absorbance is highly variable in nature, and it remains uncertain how environmental factors combine to govern flavonoid accumulation and degradation. We studied leaf UV-A absorbance of species composing the understorey plant community throughout two growing seasons under five adjacent tree canopies in southern Finland. We compared the relationship between leaf flavonol index (Iflav-repeatedly measured with an optical leaf clip Dualex) and measured spectral irradiance, understorey and canopy phenology, air temperature and snowpack variables, whole leaf flavonoid extracts, and leaf age. Strong seasonal patterns and stand-related differences were apparent in Iflav of both understorey plant communities and individual species, including divergent trends in Iflav during spring and autumn. Comparing the heterogeneity of the understorey light environment and its spectral composition in looking for potential drivers of seasonal changes in Iflav, we found that unweighted UV-A irradiance, or the effective UV dose calculated according to the biological spectral weighting function (BSWF) for plant growth (PG action spectrum), in understorey shade had a strong relationship with Iflav. Furthermore, understorey species seemed to adjust Iflav to low background diffuse irradiance rather than infrequent high direct-beam irradiance in sunflecks during summer, since leaves produced during or after canopy closure had low Iflav. In conclusion, we found the level of epidermal flavonoids in forest understorey species to be plastic, adjusting to climatic conditions, and differing according to species' leaf retention strategy and new leaf production, all of which contribute to the seasonal trends in leaf flavonoids found within forest stands.
Project description:Both species and genetic diversity of plant communities can affect insect herbivores, but a few studies have compared the effects of both diversity levels within the same experimental context. We compared the effects of tree species and genetic diversity on abundance, species richness, and ?-diversity of leaf-miner communities associated with silver birch using two long-term forest diversity experiments in Finland where birch trees were planted in monocultures and mixtures of birch genotypes or other trees species. Although both abundance and species richness of leaf miners differed among birch genotypes at the tree level, birch genetic diversity had no significant effect on miner abundance and species richness at the plot level. Instead, birch genetic diversity affected leaf-miner ?-diversity with species turnover being higher among trees within genotypic mixtures than among trees within monoclonal plots. In contrast, tree species diversity had a significant negative effect on both leaf-miner abundance and species richness at plot level, but no effect on miner ?-diversity. Significant tree species diversity effects on leaf-miner abundance and species richness were found only in plots with high tree density. We have demonstrated that plant species and genetic diversity play important but contrasting roles in structuring associated herbivore communities. Tree species diversity largely affects miner abundance and species richness, whereas tree genetic diversity affects miner ?-diversity. These results have important implications for conservation and management of woodlands.
Project description:Plant community diversity is conducive to maintain the regional ecosystems stability and ecosystem services. Seed germination is one of the main ways to regulate plant diversity, owing to seedling recruitment as a basis for plant community renewal. However, the exact mechanism of how plant litter affects seedling recruitment, and species richness is not yet fully understood. Therefore, a litter addition and removal experiment was established in a semiarid grassland to study the effects of plant litter on seedling recruitment and species richness from April to August in 2016 and 2017 in Northern China. The positive correlation between species richness and seedling recruitment indicated that a guarantee of seedling recruitment was the main precondition to protect species richness. Adding rather than removing litter significantly reduced species richness. Litter addition inhibited species richness by directly increasing mechanical damage or indirectly reducing photosynthetically active radiation and seedling recruitment. The results of this study are conducive to understand the evolutionary and regulatory mechanisms of community species richness and seedling recruitment in grassland ecosystems after adding or removing plant litter. OPEN RESEARCH BADGES:This article has been awarded Open Data, Open Materials and Preregistered research design Badges. All materials and data are publicly accessible via the Open Science Framework at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5dj3jg5 and http://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.13gj03s.