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Mixed-species tree plantings enhance structural complexity in oil palm plantations
- Zemp, Delphine Clara, Ehbrecht, Martin, Seidel, Dominik, Ammer, Christian, Craven, Dylan, Erkelenz, Joshua, Irawan, Bambang, Sundawati, Leti, Hölscher, Dirk, Kreft, Holger
- Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.283 pp. 106564
- Elaeis guineensis, agroforestry, ecological footprint, environmental impact, plantations, planting, rain forests, species diversity, trees, tropical forests
- Conversion of structurally complex rainforests into simplified oil palm monocultures leads to dramatic losses of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. To alleviate negative ecological impacts, enrichment with native tree species may rapidly restore structural complexity in existing oil palm plantations. However, the mechanisms underlying the recovery of structural complexity in mixed-species tree plantings remain poorly understood. We measured structural complexity from terrestrial laser scanning in a biodiversity enrichment experiment with multiple tree species planted in an oil palm monoculture, forming agroforestry plots of varying tree species diversity and plot size. We find that three years after tree planting, structural complexity in oil palm increased by one third, representing 25% of the increase needed to restore the structural complexity of tropical forests. Changes in structural complexity were associated with denser and more complex filling of three-dimensional space, whereas vertical stratification was mainly influenced by oil palm. Furthermore, structural complexity increased with tree species diversity in the agroforestry plots. This relationship was mainly due the presence of well-performing species that contributed to higher levels of structural complexity. However, interactions among multiple species independently from the species identity were also detected. Finally, increasing plot size had a positive effect on a scale-independent measure of structural complexity. Our results provide evidence that planting multiple tree species in large agroforestry plots is a suitable strategy to rapidly enhance structural complexity in oil palm plantations.