Neighbour species richness and local structural variability modulate aboveground allocation patterns and crown morphology of individual trees

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Local neighbourhood interactions are considered a main driver for biodiversity–productivity relationships in forests. Yet, the structural responses of individual trees in species mixtures and their relation to crown complementarity remain poorly understood. Using a large-scale forest experiment, we studied the impact of local tree species richness and structural variability on above-ground wood volume allocation patterns and crown morphology. We applied terrestrial laser scanning to capture the three-dimensional structure of trees and their temporal dynamics. We found that crown complementarity and crown plasticity increased with species richness. Trees growing in species-rich neighbourhoods showed enhanced aboveground wood volume both in trunks and branches. Over time, neighbourhood diversity induced shifts in wood volume allocation in favour of branches, in particular for morphologically flexible species. Our results demonstrate that diversity-mediated shifts in allocation pattern and crown morphology are a fundamental mechanism for crown complementarity and may be an important driver of overyielding.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2130-2140
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the many workers and students who helped to conduct the tree inventories and to all members of the BEF-China consortium that coordinated and helped with the establishment and maintenance of the experiment. Particular thanks go to our colleagues Ying Li, Yang Bo, Chen Lin and Carsten Hess who helped to collect the field data. Also thanks to our technical assistants Inga Frehse and Norman Döring as well as all student assistants for the manual extraction of the many tree individuals from the TLS data. Point cloud computations and modelling was supported by the Bull HPC-Cluster (Taurus) at TU Dresden. The BEF-China project was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1-3), the Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion (GZ 524, 592, 698, 699, 785 and 1020) and the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC 30710103907 and 30930005). We are grateful to the three anonymous referees for their constructive comments that substantially improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by CNRS and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • Ecosystems Research - BEF China, biodiversity, crown complementarity, ecosystem functioning, forests, Productivity, terrestrial laser scanning