Establishment success in a forest biodiversity and ecosystem functioning experiment in subtropical China (BEF-China)
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Experimental forest plantations to study biodiversity–ecosystem functioning (BEF) relationships have recently been established in different regions of the world, but subtropical biomes have not been covered so far. Here, we report about the initial survivorship of 26 tree species in the first such experiment in subtropical China. In the context of the joint Sino–German–Swiss Research Unit “BEF-China,” 271 experimental forest plots were established using 24 naturally occurring tree species and two native commercial conifers. Based on the survival inventories carried out in November 2009 and June 2010, the overall survival rate was 87 % after the first 14 months. Generalized mixed-effects models showed that survival rates of seedlings were significantly affected by species richness, the species’ leaf habit (deciduous or evergreen), species identity, planting date, and altitude. In the first survey, seedling establishment success decreased with increasing richness levels, a tendency that disappeared in the second survey after replanting. Though evergreen species performed less well than deciduous species with establishment rates of 84 versus 93 % in the second survey, their planting success exceeded the general expectation for subtropical broad-leaved evergreen species. These results have important implications for establishing mixed-species plantations for diversity conservation and improvement of ecosystem functioning in the Chinese subtropics and elsewhere. Additional costs associated with mixed-species plantations as compared to conventional plantations also demonstrate the potential of upscaling BEF experiments to large-scale afforestation projects.
KeywordsBEF-China Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning Tree diversity experiment Jiangxi Forest plantation success Seedling performance
Conceiving such a project and putting this endeavor into practice would not have been possible without the collaborative spirit developed in the whole research team of BEF-China. We are grateful to Miss Liu Xiaojuan, Miss Xueqin Zeng, and Mr. Zhiyong Jiang to organize the seed collection. Marking plot positions was supported by Ditte Becker from the Allsat company (Hannover). The students and technician Bo Yang, Martin Böhnke, Anne C. Lang, Andreas Schuldt, Martin Baruffol, Christian Geißler, Andreas Kundela, Yuting Wu, Xueqin Zeng, Miaomiao Shi, Jia Ding, Xiaoyan Wang, Xing Tong, Yinghua Wang, Jingfeng Yan, Ricarda Pohl, and Angela Nüske helped with organizing the planting. We are indebted to Mr. Tiankai Wang and Miss Lin Chen for their great contribution as local helpers. We are grateful to the Xinganshan forest company, particularly Mr. Shuikui Zhao. We thank the Forestry Bureau of Dexing and Shangrao by letting Mr. Wu and Mr. Cheng work for us. We also highly appreciate the competency of the two nurseries in Dexing and Xingangshan. Bing-Yang Ding, Mo Gao helped in identifying the weed species. The DEM was set up with the assistance of Karsten Schmidt and Thorsten Behrens. Pascal Niklaus gave advice on the statistical models. The funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1 and 2), the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC 30710103907 and 30930005), the 11th Five-Year China Key Science & Technology Project on Silviculture for Carbon Sequestration in the Subtropics (Grant no: 2008BAD95B09) as well as various travel grants by DFG, NSFC, and the Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion in Beijing (GZ 524, 592, 698 and 699) are highly acknowledged.
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