J Plant Ecol ›› 2017, Vol. 10 ›› Issue (1): 242-251.doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtw098

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• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Opposing intra vs. interspecific diversity effects on herbivory and growth in subtropical experimental tree assemblages

Christoph Z. Hahn1,*, Pascal A. Niklaus2, Helge Bruelheide3,4, Stefan G. Michalski1, Miaomiao Shi1,5, Xuefei Yang3,6, Xueqin Zeng1,7, Markus Fischer8 and Walter Durka1,4   

  1. 1 Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ, Department of Community Ecology (BZF), Theodor-Lieser-Straße 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany; 2 Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland; 3 Institute of Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Am Kirchtor 1, 06108 Halle, Germany; 4 German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany; 5 South China Botanical Garden, 723 Xingke Road, Guangzhou 510650, China; 6 Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 132 Lanhei Road, Kunming 650204, China; 7 Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Lam Kam Road, Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong; 8 Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, CH-3013 Bern, Switzerland
  • Received:2016-04-29 Accepted:2016-09-15 Online:2017-01-30 Published:2017-02-04
  • Contact: Hahn, Christoph E-mail:christoph.hahn@ufz.de

Abstract: Aims Positive plant diversity–ecosystem function relations are ultimately driven by variation in functional traits among individuals that form a community. To date, research has largely focused on the role of species diversity for ecosystem functioning. However, substantial intraspecific trait variation is common and a significant part of this variation caused by genetic differences among individuals. Here, we studied the relative importance of species diversity and seed family (SF) diversity within species for growth and herbivory in experimental subtropical tree assemblages.
Methods In 2010, we set up a field experiment in subtropical China, using four species from the local species pool. Trees were raised from seeds, with seeds from the same mother tree forming an SF. We established 23 plots containing one or four species (species diversity treatment) and one or four SFs per species (SF diversity treatment). Tree growth (stem diameter, plant height and crown expansion) and herbivory (percentage leaf loss due to leaf chewers) were monitored annually from 2011 to 2013.
Important findings Tree species richness promoted growth but had no effect on herbivory. In contrast, SF diversity reduced growth and increased herbivory but only so in species mixtures. Most of the observed effects were time dependent, with the largest effect found in 2013. Our results suggest that biodiversity can affect plant performance directly via tree species–species interactions, or context dependent, via potential effects on inter-trophic interactions. Two important conclusions should be drawn from our findings. Firstly, in future studies regarding biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) relationships, intraspecific genetic diversity should be given similar weight as species diversity as it has often been neglected and its effects are not well understood. Secondly, we demonstrate opposite effects of biodiversity among and within species, stressing the importance to consider the effects of multiple levels of biodiversity simultaneously.

Key words: BEF-China, species diversity, genetic diversity, growth, herbivory

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