Tree diversity and environmental context predict herb species richness and cover in Germany's largest connected deciduous forest

2011 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Tree diversity and environmental context predict herb species richness and cover in Germany's largest connected deciduous forest​
Vockenhuber, E. A. ; Scherber, C. ; Langenbruch, C. ; Meißner, M. ; Seidel, D.   & Tscharntke, T. ​ (2011) 
Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics13(2) pp. 111​-119​.​ DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2011.02.004 

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Authors
Vockenhuber, Elke A. ; Scherber, Christoph ; Langenbruch, Christina ; Meißner, Meik ; Seidel, Dominik ; Tscharntke, Teja 
Abstract
In temperate deciduous forests, the herb layer contributes most to total vascular plant species richness. The diversity of the tree layer can influence herb layer diversity by modifying resource availability and environmental conditions relevant to herb layer plants. Here, we explore the relationship between tree layer diversity and herb layer species richness and cover. Also, we address the question how different environmental factors that are potentially modified by the tree layer influence herb layer characteristics. Our study area is located in the Hainich National Park, one of the largest continuous stretches of broad-leaved deciduous forest in Central Europe. We recorded herb and tree layer composition on 79 plots selected along a tree diversity gradient ranging from two to nine tree species. In addition, canopy cover, soil pH, mass of the humus layer, soil C:N ratio, soil moisture and distance to the forest edge were determined. We used generalized least square models to analyse effects of tree diversity, environmental variables, and spatial plot positions on herb layer species richness and cover. Species richness and cover of the herb layer increased with increasing tree diversity. In addition, both species richness and cover showed a negative response to increasing canopy cover and mass of the humus layer. Herb layer species richness was also positively related to increasing soil pH and the distance to the forest edge. The proportion of forbs increased with increasing tree diversity, whereas the proportion of tree saplings decreased and the proportion of graminoids was not affected. The proportion of true forest species increased with increasing canopy cover. We conclude that forest stands with a high tree diversity feature a more diverse herb layer and a higher herb cover. Furthermore, the environmental variables humus layer mass, light availability and pH also strongly affect herb layer species richness and cover.
Issue Date
2011
Journal
Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 
Organization
Fakultät für Forstwissenschaften und Waldökologie ; Burckhardt-Institut ; Abteilung Waldbau und Waldökologie der Tropen ; Fakultät für Agrarwissenschaften ; Department für Nutzpflanzenwissenschaften ; Abteilung Agrarökologie 
ISSN
1433-8319
Language
English

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