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Does species richness affect fine root biomass and production in young forest plantations?


Tree species diversity has been reported to increase forest ecosystem above-ground biomass and productivity, but little is known about below-ground biomass and production in diverse mixed forests compared to single-species forests. For testing whether species richness increases below-ground biomass and production and thus complementarity between forest tree species in young stands, we determined fine root biomass and production of trees and ground vegetation in two experimental plantations representing gradients in tree species richness. Additionally, we measured tree fine root length and determined species composition from fine root biomass samples with the near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy method. We did not observe higher biomass or production in mixed stands compared to monocultures. Neither did we observe any differences in tree root length or fine root turnover. One reason for this could be that these stands were still young, and canopy closure had not always taken place, i.e. a situation where above- or below-ground competition did not yet exist. Another reason could be that the rooting traits of the tree species did not differ sufficiently to support niche differentiation. Our results suggested that functional group identity (i.e. conifers vs. broadleaved species) can be more important for below-ground biomass and production than the species richness itself, as conifers seemed to be more competitive in colonising the soil volume, compared to broadleaved species.

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We would like to sincerely thank Ms. Sigrid Berger, Ms. María Martínez Otero, Mr. Raino Lievonen, Mr. Arto Saari and Mr. Ilkka Jussila for field assistance, as well as Ms. Eija Koljonen, Ms. Seija Repo, Ms. Anita Pussinen, Ms. Niina-Maria Erola, Ms. Sanna Kykkänen, Ms. Tiina Turunen, Ms. Heini Savola, Ms. Helena Tanskanen, Mr. Janne Hakkarainen, Mr. Miika Nokelainen, Mr. Tuomas Silvonen and Mr. Tapio Laakso for help in the laboratory. The research leading to these results has been conducted as part of the FunDivEUROPE project, which received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 265171.

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Correspondence to Timo Domisch.

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Communicated by Stephan Hattenschwiler.

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Domisch, T., Finér, L., Dawud, S.M. et al. Does species richness affect fine root biomass and production in young forest plantations?. Oecologia 177, 581–594 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3107-3

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  • Biodiversity
  • Competition
  • Complementarity
  • Soil
  • Tree diversity