Forests benefit from the diversity of tree species and genetic diversity

eLife (2022). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.78703″ width=”800″ height=”513″/>

Conceptual representation of the effects of functional diversity (a) and trophic feedbacks on tree productivity (b) and experimental design (c). Recognition: eLife (2022). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.78703

Reforestation projects should include a variety of tree species and ensure genetic diversity within each species to maximize the health and productivity of new forests, a study published today in suggests eLife.

The results suggest that complex interactions between trees and other organisms should be carefully considered when determining the combination of trees in a forest to ensure a functioning ecosystem is maintained.

Diversity is essential for healthy ecosystems. Forests composed of a variety of tree species are more productive because they use resources more efficiently. This is because different species fill different niches – meaning they have different optimal physical and environmental conditions, such as: B. their terrain, and have different interactions with other species, such. B. Predation events, which means they compete less.

In addition, several tree species can reduce the negative effects of herbivores and soil fungi that may compete for the trees’ nutrients. Few studies have looked at the role of genetic diversity within each tree species in a forest, but some plant studies suggest that genetic diversity within a species is also beneficial for the ecosystem.

“To better understand the impact of genetic diversity in forests and to guide reforestation efforts, we investigated how both species diversity and genetic diversity within species affect forest productivity,” says Ting Tang, the co-lead author of the study , a doctoral student at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China.

Tang and colleagues used data from a long-term experiment of large tree species and genetic diversity in a subtropical forest. Tree species diversity and within-species genetic diversity were manipulated to produce four different levels of plant diversity, and the team measured five structural and chemical leaf traits known to be highly variable and related to rate of resource acquisition.

The team’s research showed that trees grown in forests with multiple tree species were more productive than those grown in forests with a single species (or monoculture). Forests with four different tree species had lower soil fungus diversity than monoculture forests, reducing the need for the trees to compete with fungi for resources. There was also less pressure from herbivores than in monoculture forests.

The team found no reduced diversity of soil fungi or herbivore pressure in forests containing a tree species with four different genetic backgrounds. But forests containing four different tree species — each with individual trees from four genetically distinct family groups — resulted in beneficial effects on both fungal diversity and herbivore pressure.

“We found that both species and genetic diversity promote forest productivity by increasing the ability of trees to maximize resource use while reducing herbivore damage and competition from soil fungi,” comments Tang.

The results suggest that species and genetic diversity could help reduce the number and diversity of tree competitors — for example, by reducing the toll herbivores take on trees, the cost of trees to produce repellents to protect them deterring, or reducing competition from fungi for nutrients. They also suggest that trees in more diverse forests are better able to utilize individual niches.

“Reforestation projects are critical to reducing atmospheric carbon and helping countries realize the full environmental and economic benefits of healthy forests,” said Xiaojuan Liu, associate professor at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. “Our results suggest that scientists leading reforestation projects should include multiple tree species and genetically distinct individual trees within each species to ensure healthier forests.”

More information:
Ting Tang et al, Tree species and genetic diversity increase productivity through functional diversity and trophic feedbacks, eLife (2022). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.78703

Journal Information:
eLife

Citation: Forests found to benefit from tree species diversity and genetic diversity (2022, November 29), retrieved November 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-forests-benefit-tree-species-variety .html

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