Introduction of non‐native Douglas fir reduces leaf damage on beech saplings and mature trees in European beech forests

2023-01-08 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Introduction of non‐native Douglas fir reduces leaf damage on beech saplings and mature trees in European beech forests​
Matevski, D.; Foltran, E. ; Lamersdorf, N. P.   & Schuldt, A. ​ (2023) 
Ecological Applications33(2).​ DOI: 

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Matevski, Dragan; Foltran, Estela ; Lamersdorf, Norbert P. ; Schuldt, Andreas 
Recent ecological research suggests that, in general, mixtures are more resistant to insect herbivores and pathogens than monocultures. However, we know little about mixtures with non‐native trees, where enemy release could lead to patterns that differ from commonly observed relationships among native species. This becomes particularly relevant when considering that adaptation strategies to climate change increasingly promote a larger share of non‐native tree species, such as North American Douglas fir in Central Europe. We studied leaf damage on European beech (Fagus sylvatica) saplings and mature trees across a wide range of site conditions in monocultures and mixtures with phylogenetically distant conifers native Norway spruce (Picea abies) and non‐native Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). We analyzed leaf herbivory and pathogen damage in relation to tree diversity and composition effects, as well as effects of environmental factors and plant characteristics. We observed lower sapling herbivory and tree sucking damage on beech in non‐native Douglas fir mixtures than in beech monocultures, probably due to a lower herbivore diversity on Douglas fir trees, and higher pathogen damage on beech saplings in Norway spruce than Douglas fir mixtures, possibly because of higher canopy openness. Our findings suggest that for low diversity gradients, tree diversity effects on leaf damage can strongly depend on tree species composition, in addition to modifications caused by feeding guild and tree ontogeny. Moreover, we found that nutrient capacity modulated the effects of tree diversity, composition, and environmental factors, with different responses in sites with low or high nutrient capacity. The existence of contrasting diversity effects based on tree species composition provides important information on our understanding of the relationships between tree diversity and plant–herbivore interactions in light of non‐native tree species introductions. Especially with recent Norway spruce die‐off, the planting of Douglas fir as replacement is likely to strongly increase in Central Europe. Our findings suggest that mixtures with Douglas fir could benefit the survival or growth rates of beech saplings and mature trees due to lower leaf damage, emphasizing the need to clearly identify and compare the potential benefits and ecological trade‐offs of non‐native tree species in forest management under ongoing environmental change.
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Ecological Applications 
Fakultät für Forstwissenschaften und Waldökologie ; Burckhardt-Institut ; Abteilung Waldnaturschutz 
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft



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