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Stability in subtropical forests: the role of tree-species diversity, stand structure, environmental and socio-economic conditions


Ouyang, Shuai et al. (2021), Stability in subtropical forests: the role of tree-species diversity, stand structure, environmental and socio-economic conditions, Dryad, Dataset,


Aim: Tree species diversity can increase the stability of ecosystem productivity by increasing mean productivity and/or reducing the standard deviation in productivity. However, stand structure, environmental and socio-economic conditions influence plant diversity and may strongly influence the relationships between diversity and stability in natural forest communities. The relative importance of these factors on community stability remains poorly understood in complex (species-rich) subtropical forests.

Location: Subtropical area of southern China.

Time period: 1999-2014.

Major taxa studied: Forest trees.

Methods: We conducted bivariate analyses to examine the mechanisms (overyielding and species asynchrony) underlying the effects of diversity on stability. Multiple regression models were then used to determine the relative importance of tree species diversity, stand structure, socio-economic factors and environmental conditions on stability. Structural equation modeling was used to disentangle how these variables directly and/or indirectly affect forest stability.

Results: Tree species richness exerted a positive effect on stability through overyielding and species asynchrony and this effect was stronger in mountainous forests than that in hilly forests. Species richness positively affected the mean productivity whereas species asynchrony negatively affected the variability in productivity, and hence increased forest stability. Structural diversity also had a positive effect while population density had a negative effect on stability. Precipitation variability and slope mainly indirectly influenced stability through their effects on tree species richness.

Main conclusions: Overall, tree species diversity governed stability; however stand structure, socio-economic and environmental conditions also played an important role in shaping stability in these forests. Our work highlights the importance of regulating stand structure and socio-economic factors in forest management and biodiversity conservation, to maintain and enhance their stability of providing the ecosystem services in the face of unprecedented anthropogenic activities and global climate change.