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Special Issue "Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems"

A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907). This special issue belongs to the section "Forest Ecology and Management".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2019)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Aaron M. Ellison

Harvard University, Harvard Forest, 324 North Main Street, Petersham, Massachusetts 01366, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: forest dynamics, old-growth forests, plant-animal interactions, statistics, succession
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Frank S. Gilliam

Department of Biology, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL 32514, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: Office phone: 850-474-2750; Cell phone: 304-544-00
Interests: forest understory, nutrient dynamics, old-growth forests, succession

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

What are the causes and consequences of species diversity in forested ecosystems, and how is this species diversity being affected by rapid environmental and climatic change, movement of invertebrate and vertebrate herbivores into new biogeographic regions, and expanding human populations and associated shifts in land-use patterns? In this Special Issue of Forests, we explore these questions for assemblages of forest trees, shrubs, and understory herbs at spatial scales ranging from small plots to large forest dynamics plots, at temporal scales ranging from seasons to centuries, in both temperate and tropical regions, and across rural-to-urban gradients in land use.

Prof. Dr. Aaron M. Ellison
Prof. Dr. Frank S. Gilliam
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. Forests 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.

Keywords

  • biogeochemistry
  • competition 
  • facilitation 
  • herbivory 
  • succession 
  • understory

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Woody Species Composition, Diversity, and Recovery Six Years after Wind Disturbance and Salvage Logging of a Southern Appalachian Forest
Forests 2019, 10(2), 129; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10020129
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 31 January 2019 / Accepted: 1 February 2019 / Published: 6 February 2019
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Abstract
Salvage logging after wind disturbance of a mixed conifer-hardwood forest results in sapling compositional changes but no changes to species diversity six years post-disturbance. Several conceptual frameworks allow for predictions of the effects of forest disturbances on composition, but fewer yield predictions of [...] Read more.
Salvage logging after wind disturbance of a mixed conifer-hardwood forest results in sapling compositional changes but no changes to species diversity six years post-disturbance. Several conceptual frameworks allow for predictions of the effects of forest disturbances on composition, but fewer yield predictions of species diversity. Following compound disturbance, tree species diversity and composition is predicted to shift to early successional species. Because of the greater cumulative severity, diversity should be lower in areas experiencing windthrow + salvage logging than in similar sites experiencing windthrow alone. We examined the effects of wind disturbance and salvage logging on diversity parameters over six years. We hypothesized that the effects of salvage logging on diversity would be short-lived, but that species composition would be altered six years post-disturbance. Sampling plots were established in a mixed-hardwood forest in north Georgia, USA, after a 2011 EF3 tornado and surveyed in 2012 and 2017. Nineteen 20 × 20 m plots were surveyed (10 unsalvaged, 9 salvaged) for parameters including Shannon diversity, species richness, and composition. Ordinations were used to visualize tree and sapling species composition in salvage logged plots. We found that there was no significant difference in Shannon diversity between salvaged and unsalvaged plots before disturbance, <1 post-disturbance, or 6 years post-disturbance. The disturbances altered the tree and sapling species compositions, with salvaged plots having more mid-successional saplings but few true pioneer species. There appears to be an emerging pattern in the wind disturbance + salvaging literature which our study supports– salvaging does not affect tree species diversity but shifts species composition over time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Species Diversity Associated with Foundation Species in Temperate and Tropical Forests
Forests 2019, 10(2), 128; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10020128
Received: 11 January 2019 / Revised: 2 February 2019 / Accepted: 4 February 2019 / Published: 5 February 2019
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Abstract
Foundation species define and structure ecological communities but are difficult to identify before they are declining. Yet, their defining role in ecosystems suggests they should be a high priority for protection and management while they are still common and abundant. We used comparative [...] Read more.
Foundation species define and structure ecological communities but are difficult to identify before they are declining. Yet, their defining role in ecosystems suggests they should be a high priority for protection and management while they are still common and abundant. We used comparative analyses of six large forest dynamics plots spanning a temperate-to-tropical gradient in the Western Hemisphere to identify statistical “fingerprints” of potential foundation species based on their size-frequency and abundance-diameter distributions, and their spatial association with five measures of diversity of associated woody plant species. Potential foundation species are outliers from the common “reverse-J” size-frequency distribution, and have negative effects on alpha diversity and positive effects on beta diversity at most spatial lags and directions. Potential foundation species also are more likely in temperate forests, but foundational species groups may occur in tropical forests. As foundation species (or species groups) decline, associated landscape-scale (beta) diversity is likely to decline along with them. Preservation of this component of biodiversity may be the most important consequence of protecting foundation species while they are still common. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
Open AccessArticle Herbaceous Vegetation Responses to Gap Size within Natural Disturbance-Based Silvicultural Systems in Northeastern Minnesota, USA
Forests 2019, 10(2), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10020111
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 24 January 2019 / Accepted: 24 January 2019 / Published: 30 January 2019
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Abstract
The use of silvicultural systems that emulate aspects of natural disturbance regimes, including natural disturbance severities and scales, has been advocated as a strategy for restoring and conserving forest biodiversity in forests managed for wood products. Nonetheless, key information gaps remain regarding the [...] Read more.
The use of silvicultural systems that emulate aspects of natural disturbance regimes, including natural disturbance severities and scales, has been advocated as a strategy for restoring and conserving forest biodiversity in forests managed for wood products. Nonetheless, key information gaps remain regarding the impacts of these approaches on a wide range of taxa, including understory plant species. We investigated the 6- or 7-year response of herbaceous vegetation to natural disturbance-based silvicultural harvest gaps in a northern hardwood forest in Northeastern Minnesota. These results indicate that harvest gaps are effective in conserving understory plant diversity by promoting conditions necessary for disturbance-dependent understory plant species. However, harvest gaps also contained non-native invasive plant species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Damage Diversity as a Metric of Structural Complexity after Forest Wind Disturbance
Forests 2019, 10(2), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10020085
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 18 January 2019 / Accepted: 21 January 2019 / Published: 23 January 2019
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Abstract
This study presents a new metric for quantifying structural complexity using the diversity of tree damage types in forests that have experienced wind disturbance. Structural complexity studies of forests have to date not incorporated any protocol to address the variety of structural damage [...] Read more.
This study presents a new metric for quantifying structural complexity using the diversity of tree damage types in forests that have experienced wind disturbance. Structural complexity studies of forests have to date not incorporated any protocol to address the variety of structural damage types experienced by trees in wind disturbances. This study describes and demonstrates such a protocol. Damage diversity, defined as the richness and evenness of types of tree damage, is calculated analogously to species diversity using two common indices, and termed a ‘Shannon Damage Heterogeneity Index’ (Sh-DHI) and an inverse Simpson Damage Heterogeneity Index (iSi-DHI). The two versions of the DHI are presented for >400 plots across 18 distinct wind disturbed forests of eastern North America. Relationships between DHI and pre-disturbance forest species diversity and size variability, as well as wind disturbance severity, calculated as the fraction of basal area downed in a wind disturbance event, are examined. DHIs are only weakly related to pre-disturbance tree species diversity, but are significantly positively related to pre-disturbance tree size inequality (size diversity). Damage diversity exhibits a robust curvilinear relationship to severity; both versions of the DHI show peaks at intermediate levels of wind disturbance severity, suggesting that in turn structural complexity may also peak at intermediate levels of severity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Climate-Related Distribution Shifts of Migratory Songbirds and Sciurids in the White Mountain National Forest
Forests 2019, 10(2), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10020084
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 21 January 2019 / Accepted: 21 January 2019 / Published: 23 January 2019
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Abstract
Climate change has been linked to distribution shifts and population declines of numerous animal and plant species, particularly in montane ecosystems. The majority of studies suggest both that low-elevation avian and small mammal species are shifting up in elevation and that high-elevation avian [...] Read more.
Climate change has been linked to distribution shifts and population declines of numerous animal and plant species, particularly in montane ecosystems. The majority of studies suggest both that low-elevation avian and small mammal species are shifting up in elevation and that high-elevation avian communities are either shifting further upslope or relocating completely with an increase in average local temperatures. However, recent research suggests numerous high elevation montane species are either not shifting or are shifting down in elevation despite the local increasing temperature trends, perhaps as a result of the increased precipitation at high elevations. In this study, we examine common vertebrate species distributions across the Hubbard Brook valley in the White Mountain National Forest, including resident and migratory songbirds and small mammals, in relation to historic spring temperature and precipitation. We found no directional change in distributions through time for any of the species. However, we show that the majority of low-elevation bird species in our study area respond to warm spring temperatures by shifting upslope. All bird species that shifted were long-distance migrants. Each low-elevation migrant species responded differently to warm spring temperatures, through upslope distribution expansion, downslope distribution contraction, or total distribution shift upslope. In contrast, we found a majority of high-elevation bird species and both high- and low-elevation mammal species did not shift in response to spring temperature or precipitation and may be subject to more complex climate trends. The heterogeneous response to climate change highlights the need for more comprehensive studies on the subject and careful consideration for appropriate species and habitat management plans in northeastern montane regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Landscape-Scale Mixtures of Tree Species are More Effective than Stand-Scale Mixtures for Biodiversity of Vascular Plants, Bryophytes and Lichens
Forests 2019, 10(1), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10010073
Received: 27 December 2018 / Revised: 16 January 2019 / Accepted: 17 January 2019 / Published: 19 January 2019
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Abstract
Tree species diversity can positively affect the multifunctionality of forests. This is why conifer monocultures of Scots pine and Norway spruce, widely promoted in Central Europe since the 18th and 19th century, are currently converted into mixed stands with naturally dominant European beech. [...] Read more.
Tree species diversity can positively affect the multifunctionality of forests. This is why conifer monocultures of Scots pine and Norway spruce, widely promoted in Central Europe since the 18th and 19th century, are currently converted into mixed stands with naturally dominant European beech. Biodiversity is expected to benefit from these mixtures compared to pure conifer stands due to increased abiotic and biotic resource heterogeneity. Evidence for this assumption is, however, largely lacking. Here, we investigated the diversity of vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens at the plot (alpha diversity) and at the landscape (gamma diversity) level in pure and mixed stands of European beech and conifer species (Scots pine, Norway spruce, Douglas fir) in four regions in Germany. We aimed to identify compositions of pure and mixed stands in a hypothetical forest landscape that can optimize gamma diversity of vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens within regions. Results show that gamma diversity of the investigated groups is highest when a landscape comprises different pure stands rather than tree species mixtures at the stand scale. Species mainly associated with conifers rely on light regimes that are only provided in pure conifer forests, whereas mixtures of beech and conifers are more similar to beech stands. Combining pure beech and pure conifer stands at the landscape scale can increase landscape level biodiversity and conserve species assemblages of both stand types, while landscapes solely composed of stand scale tree species mixtures could lead to a biodiversity reduction of a combination of investigated groups of 7 up to 20%. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessCommunication Species-Rich National Forests Experience More Intense Human Modification, but Why?
Forests 2018, 9(12), 753; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9120753
Received: 6 November 2018 / Revised: 28 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 4 December 2018
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Abstract
Ecologists have studied geographic gradients in biodiversity for decades and recently mapped the intensity of the “human footprint” around the planet. The combination of these efforts have identified some global hotspots of biodiversity that are heavily impacted by human-caused land cover change and [...] Read more.
Ecologists have studied geographic gradients in biodiversity for decades and recently mapped the intensity of the “human footprint” around the planet. The combination of these efforts have identified some global hotspots of biodiversity that are heavily impacted by human-caused land cover change and infrastructure. However, other hotspots of biodiversity experience less intense modifications from humans. Relationships between species diversity and the human footprint may be driven by covarying factors, like climate, soils, or topography, that coincidentally influence patterns of biodiversity and human land use. Here, I investigated relationships between tree species richness and the degree of human modification among Forest Service ranger districts within the contiguous US. Ranger districts with more tree species tended to experience greater human modification. Using data on climate, soils, and topography, I explored mechanisms explaining the positive relationship between tree richness and human modification. I found that climate is related to both tree richness and human modification, which may be indirectly mediated through climate’s role governing productivity. Ranger districts with more productive climates support more species and greater human modification. To explore potential conservation consequences of these relationships, I also investigated whether the amount of area designated within highly protected conservation lands were related to climate, productivity, and topography. Less productive ranger districts with steeper slopes tended to experience the greatest relative amounts of conservation protection. Combined, these results suggest that complex relationships explain the geographic patterns of biodiversity and the human footprint, but that climate and topography partially govern patterns of each. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Changes in Soil Arthropod Abundance and Community Structure across a Poplar Plantation Chronosequence in Reclaimed Coastal Saline Soil
Forests 2018, 9(10), 644; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9100644
Received: 9 September 2018 / Revised: 10 October 2018 / Accepted: 13 October 2018 / Published: 15 October 2018
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Abstract
Poplar plantations have the capacity to improve the properties of soils in muddy coastal areas; however, our understanding of the impacts of plantation development on soil arthropods remains limited. For this study, we determined the community dynamics of soil dwelling arthropods across poplar [...] Read more.
Poplar plantations have the capacity to improve the properties of soils in muddy coastal areas; however, our understanding of the impacts of plantation development on soil arthropods remains limited. For this study, we determined the community dynamics of soil dwelling arthropods across poplar plantations of different ages (5-, 10-, and 21-years) over the course of one year in Eastern Coastal China. The total abundance of soil arthropods differed with stand development. Further, there were some interactions that involved the sampling date. On average, total abundance was highest in the 10-year-old stands and lowest in the 5-year-old stands. Total abundance exhibited strong age-dependent trends in June and September, but not in March or December. The abundance of Prostigmata and Oribatida increased in the 5- to 21-year-old stands, with the highest levels being in the 10-year-old stands. The abundance of Collembola increased with stand development; however, the stand age had no significant impact on the abundance of epedapic, hemiedaphic, and euedaphic Collembola. Order richness (Hill number q = 0) curve confidence intervals overlapped among three stand ages. Shannon and Simpson diversity (Hill numbers q = 1 and q = 2) differed between 10- and 21-year-old stand age. They showed almost similar trends, and the highest and lowest values were recorded in the 21- and 10-year-old stand ages, respectively. Permutational multivariate analysis of variance demonstrated that composition also varied significantly with the sampling date and stand age, and the 10-year-old stands that were sampled in June stood well-separated from the others. Indicator analysis revealed that Scolopendromorpha and Prostigmata were indicators in June for the 10-year-old stands, while Collembola were indicators for the 21-year-old stands sampled in September. Our results highlight that both stand development and climate seasonality can significantly impact soil arthropod community dynamics in the reclaimed coastal saline soils of managed poplar plantations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Spatial Association and Diversity of Dominant Tree Species in Tropical Rainforest, Vietnam
Forests 2018, 9(10), 615; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9100615
Received: 5 September 2018 / Revised: 3 October 2018 / Accepted: 4 October 2018 / Published: 7 October 2018
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Abstract
Explaining the high diversity of tree species in tropical forests remains a persistent challenge in ecology. The analysis of spatial patterns of different species and their spatial diversity captures the spatial variation of species behaviors from a ‘plant’s eye view’ of a forest [...] Read more.
Explaining the high diversity of tree species in tropical forests remains a persistent challenge in ecology. The analysis of spatial patterns of different species and their spatial diversity captures the spatial variation of species behaviors from a ‘plant’s eye view’ of a forest community. To measure scale-dependent species-species interactions and species diversity at neighborhood scales, we applied uni- and bivariate pair correlation functions and individual species area relationships (ISARs) to two fully mapped 2-ha plots of tropical evergreen forests in north-central Vietnam. The results showed that (1) positive conspecific interactions dominated at scales smaller than 30 m in both plots, while weak negative interactions were only observed in P2 at scales larger than 30 m; (2) low numbers of non-neutral interactions between tree species were observed in both study plots. The effect of scale separation by habitat variability on heterospecific association was observed at scales up to 30 m; (3) the dominance of diversity accumulators, the species with more diversity in local neighborhoods than expected by the null model, occurred at small scales, while diversity repellers, the species with less diversity in local neighborhoods, were more frequent on larger scales. Overall, the significant heterospecific interactions revealed by our study were common in highly diverse tropical forests. Conspecific distribution patterns were mainly regulated by topographic variation at local neighborhood scales within 30 m. Moreover, ISARs were also affected by habitat segregation and species diversity patterns occurring at small neighborhood scales. Mixed effects of limited dispersal, functional equivalence, and habitat variability could drive spatial patterns of tree species in this study. For further studies, the effects of topographical variables on tree species associations and their spatial autocorrelations with forest stand properties should be considered for a comprehensive assessment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Species Richness of the Family Ericaceae along an Elevational Gradient in Yunnan, China
Forests 2018, 9(9), 511; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9090511
Received: 2 July 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 22 August 2018 / Published: 24 August 2018
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Abstract
Knowledge about how species richness varies along spatial and environmental gradients is important for the conservation and use of biodiversity. The Ericaceae is a major component of alpine and subalpine vegetation globally. However, little is known about the spatial pattern of species richness [...] Read more.
Knowledge about how species richness varies along spatial and environmental gradients is important for the conservation and use of biodiversity. The Ericaceae is a major component of alpine and subalpine vegetation globally. However, little is known about the spatial pattern of species richness and the factors that drive that richness in Ericaceae. We investigated variation in species richness of Ericaceae along an elevational gradient in Yunnan, China, and used a variation partitioning analysis based on redundancy analysis ordination to examine how those changes might be influenced by the mid-domain effect, the species-area relationship, and climatic variables. Species richness varied significantly with elevation, peaking in the upper third of the elevational gradient. Of the factors examined, climate explained a larger proportion of the variance in species richness along the elevational gradient than either land area or geometric constraints. Species richness showed a unimodal relationship with mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation. The elevational pattern of species richness for Ericaceae was shaped by the combined effects of climate and competition. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the potential effects of climate change on species richness for Ericaceae. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Excess Nitrogen in Temperate Forest Ecosystems Decreases Herbaceous Layer Diversity and Shifts Control from Soil to Canopy Structure
Forests 2019, 10(1), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10010066
Received: 28 November 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 12 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
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Abstract
Research Highlights: Excess N from atmospheric deposition has been shown to decrease plant biodiversity of impacted forests, especially in its effects on herbaceous layer communities. This work demonstrates that one of the mechanisms of such response is in N-mediated changes in the response [...] Read more.
Research Highlights: Excess N from atmospheric deposition has been shown to decrease plant biodiversity of impacted forests, especially in its effects on herbaceous layer communities. This work demonstrates that one of the mechanisms of such response is in N-mediated changes in the response of herb communities to soil resources and light availability. Background and Objectives: Numerous studies in a variety of forest types have shown that excess N can cause loss of biodiversity of herb layer communities, which are typically responsive to spatial patterns of soil resource and light availability. The objectives of this study were to examine (1) gradients of temporal change in herb composition over a quarter century, and (2) spatial patterns of herb cover and diversity and how they are influenced by soil resources and canopy structure. Materials and Methods: This study used two watersheds (WS) at the Fernow Experimental Forest, West Virginia, USA: WS4 as an untreated reference and WS3 as treatment, receiving 35 kg N/ha/yr via aerial application. Herb cover and composition was measured in seven permanent plots/WS from 1991 to 2014. In 2011, soil moisture and several metrics of soil N availability were measured in each plot, along with measurement of several canopy structural variables. Backwards stepwise regression was used to determine relationships between herb cover/diversity and soil/canopy measurements. Results: Herb diversity and composition varied only slightly over time on reference WS4, in contrast to substantial change on N-treated WS3. Herb layer diversity appeared to respond to neither soil nor canopy variables on either watershed. Herb cover varied spatially with soil resources on WS4, whereas cover varied spatially with canopy structure on WS3. Conclusions: Results support work in many forest types that excess N can decrease plant diversity in impacted stands. Much of this response is likely related to N-mediated changes in the response of the herb layer to soil N and light availability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Causes and Consequences of Species Diversity in Forest Ecosystems)
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