Aboveground overyielding in a mixed temperate forest is not explained by belowground processes

Abstract

The relationship between forest productivity and tree species diversity has been described in detail, but the underlying processes have yet to be identified. One important issue is to understand which processes are at the origin of observed aboveground overyielding in some mixed forests. We used a beech–maple plantation exhibiting aboveground overyielding to test whether belowground processes could explain this pattern. Soil cores were collected to determine fine root (FR) biomass and vertical distribution. Correlograms were used to detect spatial arrangement. Near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy was used to identify the tree species proportion in the FR samples and spatial root segregation. An isotopic approach was used to identify water acquisition patterns. The structure and the composition of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community were determined by high-throughput sequencing of DNA in the soil samples. We found no spatial pattern for FR biomass or for its vertical distribution along the gradients. No vertical root segregation was found, as FR density for both species decreased with depth in a similar way. The two species displayed similar vertical water acquisition profiles as well, mainly absorbing water from shallow soil layers; hence, niche differentiation for water acquisition was not highlighted here. Significant alterations in the fungal community compositions were detected in function of the percentage of maple in the vicinity of beech. Our findings do not support the commonly suggested drivers of aboveground overyielding in species-diverse forests and suggest that competition reduction or between-species facilitation of belowground resource acquisition may not explain the observed aboveground overyielding.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the “Investissements d’Avenir” program (ANR-11-LABX-0002-01, Laboratory of Excellence ARBRE). We thank Maud Antoine, Zélie Auvinet, Mathilde Colombat, Bastien Djimbi, Gladys Mernier, Manon Watzky for their work on root sorting, and Pascal Courtois, Erwin Dallé, Bruno Garnier, Jean-Baptiste Lily, Nicolas Marron and Florian Vast for their help with field work, Christine Gehin for performing the infrared spectroscopy analysis, Jonathan Lenoir and Bernard Amiaud for their advice on spatial analysis and Matthieu Barret for the Illumina Miseq sequencing. The authors would also like to thank the certified facility in Functional Ecology (PTEF OC 081) at the INRA Nancy-Grand Est research center for the deuterium isotope analyses and the Office National des Forêts (ONF) for installing and providing access to the experimental site. Climate data were provided by the INRA CLIMATIK platform.

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All authors participated in the conception of ideas and methodology design; AF, AD, CC, DB and MBBT participated in data collection; AF, AD, CC and PS analyzed the data; AF, AD, DB and MBBT wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Alexandre Fruleux.

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Communicated by Susana Rodriguez Echeverria.

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Fruleux, A., Bogeat-Triboulot, MB., Collet, C. et al. Aboveground overyielding in a mixed temperate forest is not explained by belowground processes. Oecologia 188, 1183–1193 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4278-0

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Keywords

  • Mycorrhiza
  • NIRS
  • Root segregation
  • Stable isotope
  • Water uptake