Data from: Tree species identity determines wood decomposition via microclimatic effects
Gottschall, Felix et al. (2020), Data from: Tree species identity determines wood decomposition via microclimatic effects, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m3s4t57
Empirical evidence suggests that the rich set of ecosystem functions and nature’s contributions to people provided by forests depends on tree diversity. Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research revealed that not only species richness per se but also other facets of tree diversity, such as tree identity, have to be considered to understand the underlying mechanisms. One important ecosystem function in forests is the decomposition of deadwood that plays a vital role in carbon and nutrient cycling and is assumed to be determined by above- and belowground interactions. However, the actual influence of tree diversity on wood decay in forests remains inconclusive. Recent studies suggest an important role of microclimate and advocate a systematical consideration of small-scale environmental conditions. We studied the influence of tree species richness, tree species identity, and microclimatic conditions on wood decomposition in a 12-year old tree diversity experiment in Germany, containing six native species within a tree species richness gradient. We assessed wood mass loss, soil microbial properties, and soil surface temperature in high temporal resolution. Our study shows a significant influence of tree species identity on all three variables. The presence of Scots pine strongly increased wood mass loss, while the presence of Norway spruce decreased it. This could be attributed to structural differences in the litter layer that were modifying the capability of plots to hold the soil surface temperature at night, consequently leading to enhanced decomposition rates in plots with higher night-time surface temperatures. Therefore, our study confirmed the critical role of microclimate for wood decomposition in forests and showed that soil microbial properties alone were not sufficient to predict wood decay. We conclude that tree diversity effects on ecosystem functions may include different biodiversity facets, such as tree identity, tree traits, and functional and structural diversity, in influencing the abiotic and biotic soil properties.