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Individual size inequality links forest diversity and above‐ground biomass

Zhang, Yu, Chen, Han Y. H., Coomes, David
The journal of ecology 2015 v.103 no.5 pp. 1245-1252
aboveground biomass, boreal forests, ecologists, equations, latitude, longitude, models, nutrient availability, soil nutrients, species diversity, trees, Canada
Despite the mounting evidence for positive diversity–productivity relationships found in controlled experiments, diversity effects on productivity in natural systems remain hotly debated. Understanding the multivariate links between diversity and productivity in natural systems, in particular natural forests that host the majority of terrestrial biodiversity and provide essential services for humanity, remains a critical challenge for ecologists. We analysed data from 448 plots of varying tree species diversity, stand ages and local nutrient availability in Canada's boreal forest (52°30′–55°24′ N latitude and 102°36′–108° W longitude). We used structural equation models to link multivariate relationships between above‐ground biomass, tree species diversity, stand age and soil nutrient availability. Above‐ground biomass increased with diversity indirectly via increasing tree size inequality, increased with stand age and was higher on sites of medium soil nutrient regime directly as well as indirectly via increased tree size inequality. Synthesis. Our results demonstrate positive diversity effects on above‐ground biomass in natural forests of diverse forest ages and soil resource availability. Furthermore, we show that tree size inequality acts as a mechanism for the positive diversity effects on above‐ground biomass and as a mechanism in regulating above‐ground biomass and species diversity simultaneously via interactions among individuals in natural forests.