Stability in subtropical forests: The role of tree species diversity, stand structure, environmental and socio-economic conditions

Shuai Ouyang, Wenhua Xiang, Mengmeng Gou, Liang Chen, Pifeng Lei, Wenfa Xiao, Xiangwen Deng, Lixiong Zeng, Jiangrong Li, Tao Zhang, Changhui Peng, David I. Forrester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

Aim: Tree species diversity can increase the stability of ecosystem productivity by increasing mean productivity and/or reducing the standard deviation in productivity. However, stand structure, environmental and socio-economic conditions influence plant diversity and might strongly influence the relationships between diversity and stability in natural forest communities. The relative importance of these factors for community stability remains poorly understood in complex (species-rich) subtropical forests. Location: Subtropical area of southern China. Time period: 1999–2014. Major taxa studied: Forest trees. Methods: We conducted bivariate analyses to examine the mechanisms (overyielding and species asynchrony) underlying the effects of diversity on stability. Multiple regression models were then used to determine the relative importance of tree species diversity, stand structure, socio-economic factors and environmental conditions on stability. Structural equation modelling was used to disentangle how these variables directly and/or indirectly affect forest stability. Results: Tree species richness exerted a positive effect on stability through overyielding and species asynchrony, and this effect was stronger in mountainous forests than in hilly forests. Species richness positively affected the mean productivity, whereas species asynchrony negatively affected the variability in productivity, hence increasing forest stability. Structural diversity also had a positive effect, whereas population density had a negative effect on stability. Precipitation variability and slope mainly had indirect influences on stability through their effects on tree species richness. Main conclusions: Overall, tree species diversity governed stability; however, stand structure, socio-economic conditions and environmental conditions also played an important role in shaping stability in these forests. Our work highlights the importance of regulating stand structure and socio-economic factors in forest management and biodiversity conservation, to maintain and enhance their stability to provide ecosystem services in the face of unprecedented anthropogenic activities and global climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-513
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 10 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0600202), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31700636), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2017M612605), Research Foundation of Education Bureau of Hunan Province (19B586) and Huitong Forest Ecological Station Program funded by the State Forestry and Grassland Administration of China (2020132080). We thank Dr Xiangcheng Mi, from the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Science, for the insightful comments.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0600202), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31700636), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2017M612605), Research Foundation of Education Bureau of Hunan Province (19B586) and Huitong Forest Ecological Station Program funded by the State Forestry and Grassland Administration of China (2020132080). We thank Dr Xiangcheng Mi, from the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Science, for the insightful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • community stability
  • ecosystem functioning
  • environmental conditions
  • population density
  • species asynchrony
  • stand attributes

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