Individual species-area relationships in temperate coniferous forests


What drives individual species-area relationships in species diversity in temperate forests?


Two 25.6 ha forest plots on the Pacific Slope of North America, one in California, and one in Washington state.


We mapped all trees ≥1 cm in diameter and examined tree species diversity of their local neighborhoods by calculating the individual species area relationship for each species and for each of three diameter classes (saplings, mature trees, and large-diameter trees).


In the California plot, small trees in four of the five major species occurred in neighborhoods with higher levels of diversity than would be expected at random. In the Washington plot, small trees for four of five abundant species had neighborhoods with lower than expected diversity at distances ≤5 m for small trees. However, at distances >5 m, all five species showed higher than expected diversity in their neighborhoods. Larger trees at both plots tended to occur in neighborhoods with lower than expected diversity, and no large-diameter focal species had neighborhoods with higher than expected diversity.


Diversity and coexistence in temperate conifer-dominated forests do not appear to be the result of random processes. Competitive interactions appear to dominate for the largest trees of most species, resulting in neighborhoods with lower diversity. For smaller trees, we suggest that a positive response to environmental heterogeneity is the likely driver of neighborhoods with higher than expected diversity, though we cannot rule out the possibility that facilitation or conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD) also play a role.
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Das, Adrian J. Larson, Andrew J. Lutz, James A.
Journal of Vegetation Science