Ecological Research

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 821–833 | Cite as

Local neighborhood communities in the understory play a critical role by affecting regeneration niches and subsequent community assembly in a montane cloud forest

  • Chi-Yu Weng
  • Kuoh-Cheng Yang
  • Chang-Fu Hsieh
  • Chih-hao Hsieh
  • Mong-Huai Su
Special Feature: Original Article Filling the gaps


Regeneration niches for tree seedlings are defined as possessing the biotic and abiotic requirements to successfully replace adults. However, two critical discrepancies obscure our understanding of the role of regeneration niches in forest community assembly: a weak association between seedling assemblages and environmental factors, and an uncoupling between seedling and adult-tree assemblages. However, understory plants, which may interact with microenvironments and seedlings, may be a better spatial descriptor of regeneration habitats. To test this, the spatial variations of seedling assemblages in a montane cloud forest of Taiwan were analyzed in terms of their association with neighborhood assemblages of understory plants, the shrub layer, and overstory trees, as well as environmental variables. We found that the understory plant spatial structure contributed most in explaining spatial variations of the seedling assemblages (especially for widespread Lauraceae and patchy Fagaceae) and facilitated the identification of patches of different regeneration habitats for specific seedling assemblages. Moreover, among these regeneration patches, tall herbs affected seedling density and diversity differently. We found segregation between tall herbs and Lauraceae seedlings, indicating that tall herbs shape seedling assemblages and uncouple the association between seedling and adult stages. However, positive covariations between seedlings/tall herbs and between seedlings/adults were found for Fagaceae and Pentaphylacaceae in different regeneration patches, suggesting that positive, neighboring effects and dispersal limitation may cause the patchy distribution of seedling assemblages and affect their coupling with adults. Thus, the understory plant spatial structure shapes seedling assemblages and provides a better link to spatial associations with regeneration habitats.


Montane cloud forest Regeneration niche Seedling establishment Species codispersion Understory community 



We thank Jer-ker Lin for providing valuable tree data information in the Nanhsi forest dynamics plot. An early draft of the manuscript was improved by comments from Su-wei Fan. Discussions with Chia-hao Chang-Yang, Guo-Zhang M. Song, Yi-ching Lin, and I-fang Sun helped us to improve the manuscript. This study was supported by Yushan National Park (Taiwan).

Supplementary material

11284_2017_1475_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1162 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chi-Yu Weng
    • 1
  • Kuoh-Cheng Yang
    • 2
  • Chang-Fu Hsieh
    • 1
  • Chih-hao Hsieh
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Mong-Huai Su
    • 7
  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Taiwan Academy of EcologyTaichungTaiwan
  3. 3.Institute of OceanographyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  4. 4.Research Center for Environmental ChangesAcademia SinicaTaipeiTaiwan
  5. 5.Department of Life ScienceNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  6. 6.National Center for Theoretical SciencesTaipeiTaiwan
  7. 7.Department of Forestry and Nature ConservationChinese Culture UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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