A disturbance-induced increase in tree species diversity facilitates forest productivity
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Natural disturbances can have a considerable negative impact on the productivity of forest landscapes. Yet, disturbances are also important drivers of diversity, with diversity generally contributing positively to forest productivity. While the direct effects of disturbance have been investigated extensively it remains unclear how disturbance-mediated changes in diversity influence landscape productivity. Considering that disturbances are increasing in many ecosystems a better understanding of disturbance impacts is of growing importance for ecosystem management.
Here, our objectives were to study the effect of disturbance on tree species diversity at different spatial scales (α and β diversity), and to analyze how a disturbance-mediated variation in tree species diversity affects forest productivity.
To account for long-term interactions between disturbance, diversity, and productivity and test a range of disturbance scenarios we used simulation modeling, focusing on a temperate forest landscape in Central Europe.
We found an overall positive effect of disturbance on tree species diversity both with regard to α and β diversity, persisting under elevated disturbance frequencies. Productivity was enhanced by within- and between-stand diversity, with the effect of α diversity decreasing and that of β diversity increasing through the successional development. Positive diversity effects were found to be strongly contingent on the available species pool, with landscapes containing species with different life-history strategies responding most strongly to disturbance-mediated diversity.
We conclude that, rather than homogenizing disturbed areas, forest managers should incorporate the diversity created by disturbances into stand development to capitalize on a positive diversity effect on productivity.
KeywordsAlpha diversity Beta diversity Forest productivity Natural disturbances Forest landscape dynamics iLand model Tree species diversity
This study was conducted under the European Commission collaborative research project FunDivEUROPE (Project No. 265171). R. Seidl acknowledges further support from a European Commission’s Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (PCIG12-GA-2012-334104). The simulation results presented here have been derived using the Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC). We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.
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