Special Issue "Monitoring Plant Diversity and Community Assembly in Forest Ecosystems"

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Diversity".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Giandiego Campetella
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Biosciences & Veterinary Medicine - Plant Diversity and Ecosystems Management unit University of Camerino, Italy
Interests: Forest ecology, plant diversity, plant community assembly, plant traits–environment relationship, disturbance ecology, grasslands experiment, climate change ecology
Dr. Stefano Chelli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Università degli Studi di Camerino, Camerino, Italy
Interests: forest understory, plant functional traits, climate change, forest management, traits–environment relationship, land use change.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Covering nearly one-third of biosphere lands, forests represent the most complex terrestrial ecosystem. They contain over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and are able to support a huge amount of processes and relative functions. Recently, the awareness about the importance of potential direct and indirect contributions of forest ecosystems to human well-being (i.e., forest ecosystem services) has been increasing. However, the impact provided by anthropogenic disturbances, such as nitrogen deposition, timber over-exploitation, altered disturbance regimes, invasive species, land-use change, and climate change, calls for new scientific contributions to explore the basic ecological mechanisms supporting forest plant diversity and relative functions, as well as new performant approaches to monitor their dynamics and naturalness degree. In this respect, as there is a spontaneous tendency to study predominantly the tree vegetation layer, where most of the biomass and key organisms are located, more emphasis should be placed on the understory vegetation, where most of the plant biodiversity is present, as this was proven to serve a crucial role in preserving the structure and function of forests.

In this "Diversity" Special Issue entitled “Monitoring Plant Diversity and Community Assembly in Forest Ecosystems”, we encourage researchers to submit their manuscripts on the following topics:

  • Effects of climate and land-use changes on forest plant communities;
  • Spatio-temporal patterns of plant diversity and assembly rules in forests;
  • Functional trait-based assembly rules;
  • Long-term ecological research studies (LTER network) in forests;
  • Aspects related to the observer’s bias in monitoring activities;
  • Trees spatial point pattern analysis;
  • Structural and biological indicators
Dr. Giandiego Campetella
Dr. Stefano Chelli
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Diversity is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Can Functional Traits Explain Plant Coexistence? A Case Study with Tropical Lianas and Trees
Diversity 2020, 12(10), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12100397 - 14 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 699
Abstract
Organisms are adapted to their environment through a suite of anatomical, morphological, and physiological traits. These functional traits are commonly thought to determine an organism’s tolerance to environmental conditions. However, the differences in functional traits among co-occurring species, and whether trait differences mediate [...] Read more.
Organisms are adapted to their environment through a suite of anatomical, morphological, and physiological traits. These functional traits are commonly thought to determine an organism’s tolerance to environmental conditions. However, the differences in functional traits among co-occurring species, and whether trait differences mediate competition and coexistence is still poorly understood. Here we review studies comparing functional traits in two co-occurring tropical woody plant guilds, lianas and trees, to understand whether competing plant guilds differ in functional traits and how these differences may help to explain tropical woody plant coexistence. We examined 36 separate studies that compared a total of 140 different functional traits of co-occurring lianas and trees. We conducted a meta-analysis for ten of these functional traits, those that were present in at least five studies. We found that the mean trait value between lianas and trees differed significantly in four of the ten functional traits. Lianas differed from trees mainly in functional traits related to a faster resource acquisition life history strategy. However, the lack of difference in the remaining six functional traits indicates that lianas are not restricted to the fast end of the plant life–history continuum. Differences in functional traits between lianas and trees suggest these plant guilds may coexist in tropical forests by specializing in different life–history strategies, but there is still a significant overlap in the life–history strategies between these two competing guilds. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Legacy of the Past Logging: How Forest Structure Affects Different Facets of Understory Plant Diversity in Abandoned Coppice Forests
Diversity 2020, 12(3), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12030109 - 20 Mar 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 718
Abstract
Predicting how biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning requires a multifaceted approach based on the partitioning of diversity into its taxonomic and functional facets and thus redundancy. Here, we investigated how species richness (S), functional diversity (FD) and functional redundancy (FR) are affected by forest [...] Read more.
Predicting how biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning requires a multifaceted approach based on the partitioning of diversity into its taxonomic and functional facets and thus redundancy. Here, we investigated how species richness (S), functional diversity (FD) and functional redundancy (FR) are affected by forest structure. Sixty-eight abandoned coppice-with-standards plots were selected in two mountain areas of the Apennine chain. We performed linear models to quantify the influence of structural parameters on S, FD and FR of clonal traits. Each diversity facet was affected differently by structural parameters, suggesting a complex interweaving of processes that influence the understory layer. Namely, tree layer density influences S, the height of the standards affects the lateral spread and persistence of clonal growth organs, and diameter of standards affects the FD of the number of clonal offspring. Opposite relationships compared to FD was found for the FR, suggesting how clonal traits play a key role in species assemblage. The observation that structural parameters exert opposite impact on FR seems to indicate a counterbalance effect on ecosystem stability. Multifaceted approaches yield a better understanding of relationship between forest structure and understory, and this knowledge can be exploited to formulate indications for more sustainable management practices. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Presence of IUCN Red List Tree Species in Dependence of Site Characteristics in the Vietnamese Cat Ba National Park
Diversity 2020, 12(3), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12030104 - 17 Mar 2020
Viewed by 671
Abstract
Rare or endangered tree species are important components of forest ecosystems and play a crucial role in management and conservation. Understanding what influences their presence is critical for managers, conservationists and planners. This study presents results of a comprehensive inventory of the tree [...] Read more.
Rare or endangered tree species are important components of forest ecosystems and play a crucial role in management and conservation. Understanding what influences their presence is critical for managers, conservationists and planners. This study presents results of a comprehensive inventory of the tree species and site characteristics in the Vietnamese Cat Ba National Park (CBNP). An adaptive cluster sampling technique was applied to study the effect of human disturbance, soil properties, and terrain conditions on the presence of IUCN Red List tree species (all individuals > 5 cm diameter at breast height) in three strictly protected areas in CBNP, which have varying levels of isolation. Data from 239 sample plots (500 m2 each) were analyzed. Tree species recorded during the inventory were assigned to two categories: IUCN Red List and other. Our results showed that site characteristics differed in the three protected areas along with the presence of IUCN Red List tree species. IUCN Red List tree species were more frequently found on less favorable soils (low soil depth) and in terrain with more pronounced slopes and with a higher rock surface area (%). However, there is no indication from existing information on the autecology of the different Red List species that the site conditions hosting the species are the ones favored by the species, even on the contrary for some. Although direct signs of human activity (paths, animal traps) could not be related to the presence of Red List tree species, the data suggest that the accessibility of the sites is a strong negative driver for the presence of Red List tree species. We conclude that protection of the forests of the Cat Ba Island should be stricter to allow the IUCN Red List tree species to grow under more appropriate conditions, which then would allow studying their ecology in more detail. This would further allow deriving more precise recommendations for their future protection. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Unimodal Relationships of Understory Alpha and Beta Diversity along Chronosequence in Coppiced and Unmanaged Beech Forests
Diversity 2020, 12(3), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12030101 - 13 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 835
Abstract
Patterns of diversity across spatial scales in forest successions are being overlooked, despite their importance for developing sustainable management practices. Here, we tested the recently proposed U-shaped biodiversity model of forest succession. A chronosequence of 11 stands spanning from 5 to 400 years [...] Read more.
Patterns of diversity across spatial scales in forest successions are being overlooked, despite their importance for developing sustainable management practices. Here, we tested the recently proposed U-shaped biodiversity model of forest succession. A chronosequence of 11 stands spanning from 5 to 400 years since the last disturbance was used. Understory species presence was recorded along 200 m long transects of 20 × 20 cm quadrates. Alpha diversity (species richness, Shannon and Simpson diversity indices) and three types of beta diversity indices were assessed at multiple scales. Beta diversity was expressed by a) spatial compositional variability (number and diversity of species combinations), b) pairwise spatial turnover (between plots Sorensen, Jaccard, and Bray–Curtis dissimilarity), and c) spatial variability coefficients (CV% of alpha diversity measures). Our results supported the U-shaped model for both alpha and beta diversity. The strongest differences appeared between active and abandoned coppices. The maximum beta diversity emerged at characteristic scales of 2 m in young coppices and 10 m in later successional stages. We conclude that traditional coppice management maintains high structural diversity and heterogeneity in the understory. The similarly high beta diversities in active coppices and old-growth forests suggest the presence of microhabitats for specialist species of high conservation value. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Patterns of Understory Community Assembly and Plant Trait-Environment Relationships in Temperate SE European Forests
Diversity 2020, 12(3), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12030091 - 04 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1156
Abstract
We analyzed variation in the functional composition and diversity of understory plant communities across different forest vegetation types in Slovenia. The study area comprises 10 representative forest sites covering broad gradients of environmental conditions (altitude, geology, light availability, soil type and reaction, nutrient [...] Read more.
We analyzed variation in the functional composition and diversity of understory plant communities across different forest vegetation types in Slovenia. The study area comprises 10 representative forest sites covering broad gradients of environmental conditions (altitude, geology, light availability, soil type and reaction, nutrient availability, soil moisture), stand structural features and community attributes. The mean and variation of the trait values were quantified by community-weighted means and functional dispersion for four key plant functional traits: plant height, seed mass, specific leaf area and leaf dry matter content. At each study site, forest vegetation was surveyed at two different spatial scales (4 and 100 m2) in order to infer scale-dependent assembly rules. Patterns of community assembly were tested with a null model approach. We found that both trait means and diversity values responded to conspicuous gradients in environmental conditions and species composition across the studied forests. Our results mainly support the idea of abiotic filtering: more stressful environmental conditions (e.g., high altitude, low soil pH and low nutrient content) were occupied by communities of low functional diversity (trait convergence), which suggests a selective effect for species with traits adapted to such harsh conditions. However, trait convergence was also detected in some more resource-rich forest sites (e.g., low altitude, high soil productivity), most likely due to the presence of competitive understory species with high abundance domination. This could, at least to some extent, indicate the filtering effect of competitive interactions. Overall, we observed weak and inconsistent patterns regarding the impact of spatial scale, suggesting that similar assembly mechanisms are operating at both investigated spatial scales. Our findings contribute to the baseline understanding of the role of both abiotic and biotic constraints in forest community assembly, as evidenced by the non-random patterns in the functional structure of distinct temperate forest understories. Full article
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Open AccessCommunication
Does Protection Really Matter? A Case Study from Central European Oak Forests
Diversity 2020, 12(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12010006 - 20 Dec 2019
Viewed by 847
Abstract
In the face of a rapidly changing global environment, detailed research into the actual role of protected areas (PAs) in preventing the destruction of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity became particularly important. Using 304 phytosociological relevés of oak forests from SW Poland, [...] Read more.
In the face of a rapidly changing global environment, detailed research into the actual role of protected areas (PAs) in preventing the destruction of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity became particularly important. Using 304 phytosociological relevés of oak forests from SW Poland, we monitored their state of preservation reflected by the share of synanthropes (Ws-c index) in relation to (i) duration of protection, (ii) status of protected area, (iii) main topographic factors, and (iv) bedrock type. We show that the Ws-c index of studied forests depends primarily on the habitat conditions, especially bedrock type, while both the duration and status of protection are not relevant. The most disturbed are forests developing on serpentine substrates regardless of whether they are protected or not. Within the rest of the investigated sites, the Ws-c index is significantly lower and does not meaningfully differ between protected and unprotected areas. On the one hand, our results suggest that the fact of establishing protection does not ensure a favourable state of conservation of forest communities. On the other hand, well-preserved forest communities can also be expected outside PAs what makes them an important target for nature protection in the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
What is the Long-Term Effect of Bamboo Dominance on Adult Trees in the Araucaria Forest? A Comparative Analysis between Two Successional Stages in Southern Brazil
Diversity 2019, 11(9), 165; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11090165 - 16 Sep 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1006
Abstract
Bamboos are opportunistic species that rapidly colonize open areas following forest disturbance, forming dense clusters that alter the regenerative processes and maintain lower levels of tree diversity. Widespread forest degradation, especially in Latin America and Asia, and human-induced introduction have allowed native and [...] Read more.
Bamboos are opportunistic species that rapidly colonize open areas following forest disturbance, forming dense clusters that alter the regenerative processes and maintain lower levels of tree diversity. Widespread forest degradation, especially in Latin America and Asia, and human-induced introduction have allowed native and non-native bamboo species to thrive, hindering successional pathways that would otherwise lead to more diverse forests; such a large-scale phenomenon is a key concern in the conservation of forest resources around the globe. Despite previous research on this phenomenon, little is known about the long-term effects of bamboo dominance on forest structure and composition and the corresponding interaction with natural regeneration. As such, we sought to evaluate the long-term effects of bamboo dominance on the dynamics of adult forest populations considering two forest types (Bamboo Forest—BF and Araucaria Forest—AF) over an 11-year period in the Embrapa Research Station in Caçador, Brazil. We monitored 20 plots (15 × 15 m) in each forest type where we tagged, identified, and measured the height and diameter of all the trees taller than 1.5 m (H) and diameter at breast height (DBH) greater than 3.18 cm. Comparisons were based on forest species diversity and structure parameters. In BF, diversity of species increased after the bamboo die-off that occurred in 2006 with a subsequent reduction in the number of pioneer species overtime. However, secondary species remained stagnant demonstrating that recruitment and transition into higher size classes is restricted to the immediate die-off aftermath. On the other hand, plant diversity and structure in the relatively bamboo-free AF were stable with secondary species accounting for the most richness. Our results confirm that BF maintains significantly lower levels of diversity that are restricted to pioneer species; AF structure and diversity are not significantly affected by bamboo die-off and recolonization; and BF tree species are caught in a closed cycle of arrested successional development. The widespread presence of bamboos as dominant species in the region should become a part of the conversation pertaining to forest management and conservation in Brazil and other countries in south America and Asia. Full article
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