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Tree community composition stabilizes ecosystem functions in response to drought


Gottschall, Felix et al. (2023), Tree community composition stabilizes ecosystem functions in response to drought, Dryad, Dataset,


In summer 2018, Central Europe was hit by an extreme drought event that widely impacted ecosystems and markedly increased tree mortality in forest ecosystems across the continent. As climate models predict an increase in frequency and severity of such events, there is an urgent need to adapt forests in order to maintain the diverse benefits they provide. Soil processes play an essential role in this context and are key for a plethora of terrestrial ecosystem functions but are strongly dependent on water availability. Here we investigated how tree species richness, composition, and identity in a 13-year-old temperate tree diversity experiment influenced selected ecosystem functions (as important representatives of different ecosystem processes) during the 2018 summer drought. We focused on the stability of soil microbial biomass and standard litter decomposition, as well as tree species-specific mortality rates. Contrary to our expectations, tree species richness did not generally increase the resistance of soil functions and decrease tree mortality rates. However, the resistance of these functions was determined by tree species identity and community composition. For the resistance of both soil functions (microbial biomass and litter decomposition), we found that tree species richness effects depended on the presence of certain tree species. Moreover, we found that the performance of a specific tree species in monoculture, Norway Spruce, was a poor predictor of its response to drought in tree species mixtures. Taken together, the results of our study demonstrate that the species composition of tree stands determines tree mortality and the resistance of soil functions under drought. This indicates that enhancing multiple ecosystem functions under environmental disturbance requires maintaining diverse forests.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft