According to Science News, for a decade, researchers explore how tree species diversity affects the coexistence of trees and their growth performance in the largest biodiversity experiment with trees worldwide, the so-called ‘BEF-China’ experiment. One of the main interests of the BEF-China team is to explore the relationship between tree diversity and multiple ecosystem functions, specifically those benefiting society, such as wood production or the mitigation of soil erosion.
For this purpose, an experimental site of c. 50 hectare in subtropical China was planted with more than 400,000 trees and shrubs. The findings now shed new light on tree-tree interactions: The local environment of a tree strongly determine its productivity, meaning that tree individuals growing in a species-rich neighborhood produce more wood than those surrounded by neighbors of the same species. “Particularly impressive is the finding that the interrelations of a tree with its immediate neighbors induce higher productivity of the entire tree community (i.e. the forest stand) and that such local neighborhood interactions explain more than 50% of the total forest stand productivity,” says forest ecologist Dr. Andreas Fichtner.
The scientists were also able to identify mechanisms explaining why species-rich neighborhoods promote tree productivity. Their findings show that competition is less prevalent in species-rich neighborhoods and that species-rich neighborhoods can even lead to facilitation by e.g. an improvement of the microclimatic conditions or by positive interactions with soil fungi, where to buy liquor.
“These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of tree interactions and the functioning of forest ecosystems, and are particularly relevant for nature conservation and forestry,” says Prof. Dr. Goddert von Oheimb from the Department of Forest Sciences at the TU Dresden. This, in turn, will benefit the multifunctionality of forest ecosystems and their associated ecosystem services benefitting the society. “This shows that biodiversity conservation is not exclusively an ecological or ethical issue, but rather a necessity ensuring the socio-economic welfare,” says Dr. Andreas Fichtner.