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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2020 / Overstorey composition shapes across-trophic level community relationships in deciduous forest regardless of fragmentation context

M. P Perring, L. R Hertzog, S. RE De Groote, D. Dekeukeleire, W. Dekoninck, P. De Smedt, W. Proesmans, B. K Sercu, T. Sleeuwaert, J. Van Keer, I. M van Schrojenstein Lantman, P. Vantieghem, L. Baeten, D. Bonte, A. Martel, K. Verheyen, and L. Lens (2020)

Overstorey composition shapes across-trophic level community relationships in deciduous forest regardless of fragmentation context

Journal of Ecology.

1. Communities across trophic levels, and the functional roles they play, are vital for
the sustained provision of ecosystem services. In forest systems, diversification
of overstorey composition has been shown to be a key driver of biodiversity, but
its influence on across-trophic level relationships remains scarcely known. Species
across trophic levels in varied overstorey compositions are also differentially susceptible to fragmentation context. We hypothesise that fragmentation will disrupt
community relationships associated with particular overstorey compositions.
2. We test this hypothesis using a tree diversity research platform across 53 deciduous woodland plots in central Belgium. We estimate species abundances within
nine, generally taxonomic, community groups across trophic levels: understorey
vegetation; leaf miners and gall formers; woodlice, millipedes; carabid beetles,
harvestmen, spiders, birds, bats. We use multiple co-inertia analyses to examine
how taxonomic and trophic role community matrices covary across gradients of
overstorey composition, via three different tree species diversification pathways,
and fragmentation.
3. For all trophic role groups, across all plots, there was at least one significant pairwise comparison. Apart from comparisons involving bats, there was at least one
significant pairwise correlation between taxonomic groups too. These results indicate correlated community matrices across trophic levels. Overstorey composition
related to community tightness, that is, the level of co-ordinated change among
taxonomic and/or trophic role groups as revealed by multiple co-inertia analyses.
Notably, diversifying woodlands of beech Fagus sylvatica or red oak Quercus rubra
with pedunculate oak Quercus robur correlated with increased taxonomic community tightness. Diversifying pedunculate oak forest stands with other overstorey
species related to unchanged community tightness. Evidence was lacking for fragmentation affecting community tightness, singly or by interacting with overstorey
4. Synthesis. Overall, changing tree species composition and fragmentation level affected across-trophic level community relationships differently. Yet, we demonstrated a clear signal that diversifying monoculture stands with particular species
correlated with greater community tightness, and co-ordinated change among
sets of community groups, across trophic levels and regardless of fragmentation
context. We postulate that having tighter community relationships suggests that
measures to improve biodiversity at one trophic level (i.e. trees) could affect other
groups, and their associated roles, in a co-ordinated manner

biodiversity, co-inertia analysis, Fagus sylvatica, forest fragmentation, Quercus robur, Quercus, rubra, tree composition
  • DOI: DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13580