No complementarity no gain—Net diversity effects on tree productivity occur once complementarity emerges during early stand development

Jon Urgoiti, Christian Messier, William S. Keeton, Peter B. Reich, Dominique Gravel, Alain Paquette

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Although there is compelling evidence that tree diversity has an overall positive effect on forest productivity, there are important divergences among studies on the nature and strength of these diversity effects and their timing during forest stand development. To clarify conflicting results related to stand developmental stage, we explored how diversity effects on productivity change through time in a diversity experiment spanning 11 years. We show that the strength of diversity effects on productivity progressively increases through time, becoming significantly positive after 9 years. Moreover, we demonstrate that the strengthening of diversity effects is driven primarily by gradual increases in complementarity. We also show that mixing species with contrasting resource-acquisition strategies, and the dominance of deciduous, fast-developing species, promote positive diversity effects on productivity. Our results suggest that the canopy closure and subsequent stem exclusion phase are key for promoting niche complementarity in diverse tree communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-862
Number of pages12
JournalEcology letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research would not have been possible without the dedication of the many grad students, postdocs and interns who worked on the IDENT‐MTL experiment over the last 11 years. We also thank M. Belluau for collecting and providing functional traits, E. Searle and D. Schönig for welcomed suggestions in data analysis and R. Sousa‐Silva for helpful discussions and comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. The research leading to these results was financially supported by grants from the National Research Council Canada (NSERC) to CM, DG and AP. The contribution of PR was supported by the U.S. NSF Biological Integration Institutes grant DBI‐2021898.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • biodiversity-ecosystem functioning
  • functional diversity
  • functional identity
  • functional traits
  • life-history strategy
  • long-term diversity effects
  • productivity
  • resource partitioning
  • tree diversity experiment

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter


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