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Changes in soil faunal assemblages during conversion from pure to mixed forest stands

Chauvat, Matthieu, Titsch, Dagmar, Zaytsev, Andrey S., Wolters, Volkmar
Forest ecology and management 2011 v.262 no.3 pp. 317-324
Abies, Fagus, Picea, afforestation, deciduous forests, foods, forest stands, forest trees, issues and policy, microhabitats, mixed forests, mixed stands, nestedness, pure stands, soil, species diversity, Germany
Replacement of native deciduous forests by coniferous stands was a common consequence of former European afforestation policies. However, these changes have proven to lead to serious ecological problems. Therefore, re-establishing mixed forests with native tree species became an increasingly popular management strategy to fulfil the demands of multi-functional forestry. We report about changes in collembolan assemblages and microbial performances during conversion of pure coniferous stands to mixed forests. The study was carried out in the Black forest area (SW of Germany), where a gradient of conversion from pure spruce stands (S1) to equally mixed stands (spruce, beech, and fir) at S4, through two intermediate stages (S2 and S3) was selected. Results clearly indicated strong modifications of the collembolan communities with an enrichment of the assemblages over the course of the conversion process. Mean species richness increased by 47% from S1 to S4 accompanied by diversity indices (Shannon and Simpson) higher at S4. Significantly different soil biota assemblages were found at each phase of the conversion process. Spatial turnover and nestedness contribute almost equally to the modification of assemblages from S1 to S2 while later on in the mixing process only spatial turnover was acting. Concomitantly, significant shifts in the functional structure of the collembolan assemblages were depicted, deep-dwelling collembolan (euedaphic) being, surprisingly, the most responsive group. In contrast, neither microbial nor coarse environmental parameters were influenced by the factor “conversion phase”. We suggest that stimulation of Collembolan communities after the mixing process was mainly due to the input of more suitable food sources and/or microhabitat increases. Our findings underline the crucial role of aboveground processes on the belowground system, with the intensity and scheme of the mixing-process as important factors to consider when aiming at soil biodiversity improvement in forest systems.