Forest biomass, soil and biodiversity relationships originate from biogeographic affinity and direct ecological effects
22 June 2019Noreika, Norbertas; Helm, Aveliina; Opik, Maarja; Jairus, Teele; Vasar, Martti; Reier, Ülle; Kook, Ene; Riibak, Kersti; Kasari, Liis; Tullus, Hardi; Tullus, Tea; Lutter, Reimo; Oja, Ede; Saag, Andres; Randlane, Tiina; Pärtel, Meelis
Ecosystem biomass, soil conditions and the diversity of different taxa are often interrelated. These relationships could originate from biogeographic affinity (varying species pools) or from direct ecological effects within local communities. Disentangling regional and local causes is challenging as the former might mask the latter in natural ecosystems with varying habitat conditions. However, when the species pool contribution is considered in statistics, local ecological effects might be detected.
In this study we disentangle the indirect effects of the species pool and direct ecological effects on the complex relationships among wood volume, soil conditions and diversities of different plant and fungal groups in 100 old-growth forest sites (10 x 10 m) at the border of boreal and nemoral zones in northern Europe.
We recorded all species for different vegetation groups: woody and herbaceous vascular plants, terricolous and epiphytic bryophytes and lichens. Fungal communities were detected by DNA-based analyses from soil samples. Above-ground wood volume was used as a proxy of biomass. We measured soil pH and nutrient content and obtained modelled climate parameters for each site. Species pool effect was considered by dividing sites into boreal and nemoral groups based on community composition. In order to disentangle direct and indirect effects, we applied variation partitioning, and raw and partial correlations.
We found many significant positive relationships among studied variables. Many of these relationships were associated to boreal and nemoral species pools, thus indicating that biogeographic affinity of interacting plants and fungi largely defines forest diversity and functioning. At the same time, several relationships were significant also after considering biogeography: woody plant and ectomycorrhizal fungi diversities with wood volume, many plant and fungal groups with each other, or with soil conditions. These direct ecological interactions could be considered in forestry practices to achieve both economic gain and maintenance of biodiversity.