Patterns of belowground overyielding and fine-root biomass in native and exotic angiosperms and gymnosperms

Michael J Schuster, Laura J. Williams, Artur Stefanski, Raimundo Bermudez, Michaël Belluau, Christian Messier, Alain Paquette, Dominique Gravel, Peter B Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mixing tree species can lead to more productive forests, but how belowground productivity is affected by mixtures of trees of diverse phylogenetic and eco-evolutionary histories is unclear. Here, we examine how species origin and phylogeny affect belowground productivity in tree communities of varied richness and functional diversity. We measured standing fine-root biomass and annual fine-root production across 41 assemblages of 12 tree species, representing both angiosperms and gymnosperms originating from North America and Europe. Increasing functional diversity of mixtures stimulated overyielding of annual production but did not affect standing biomass. In general, annual productivity of mixtures of species that were less productive in monoculture had neutral (angiosperms) to positive (North American species: +16%) responses to mixing, whereas annual productivity of mixtures of species that were more productive in monoculture had neutral (European species) to negative (gymnosperms: −6%) responses to mixing. These differences translated into angiosperm mixtures overyielding in standing biomass by 16% but no effects of mixing on gymnosperm mixtures. The trends we observed between North American and European species annual production were reversed when considering standing biomass. European mixtures had 14% more standing biomass and North American mixtures had 10% less standing biomass than expected from monocultures. Our study offers a rare examination of the combined roles of origin and phylogeny in forest fine-root productivity, and suggests varied consequences of biodiversity change for forest belowground productivity based on composition. In North America, belowground productivity of young forests composed of angiosperms and native tree species may be more tightly linked to diversity than that of forests dominated by gymnosperms or European species. This suggests that increased diversity may lead to the greatest enhancement of belowground productivity in native, North American forests dominated by angiosperms, but also that declines in diversity may be felt most strongly in these forests as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere08877
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
– We would like to thank Peter Wragg, Daniel Stangle, Kally Worm, Li Lin, Xiaorong Wei, Cindy Buschena and Ming Cheng for assistance in coordinating and executing field work. We would also like to thank the many interns of the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve that have worked to process root samples. Open access funding enabled and organized by Project DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Oikos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos.


  • angiosperm
  • biodiversity
  • exotic
  • forest
  • gymnosperm
  • overyielding
  • turnover


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