Diverse woodlands "faster-growing and more resilient"

Woodlands made up of a range of species are better than monocultures at providing multiple ecosystem services, according to German researchers.

Image: Florian Zinner (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image: Florian Zinner (CC BY-ND 2.0)

As part of the European-wide research project FunDivEUROPE the researchers, led by Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), studied plots in woodlands in Germany, Finland, Poland, Romania, Italy and Spain.

Based on measurements of 26 functions covering nutrient and carbon cycles, tree growth and resilience, and forest regeneration, they concluded that trees in more diverse woodlands grow faster, store more carbon and are more resistant to pests and diseases than those in species-poor forests.
Sophia Ratcliffe, who led the study at Leipzig University, said: "Converting forest monocultures to multi-species forests should generally result in a higher delivery of ecosystem goods and services to humans."

The study also found the effect was more pronounced in regions where available water is scarce and the growing season longer.

Managing director of iDiv and Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Christian Wirth said: "Our summers will be drier and longer as a result of climate change. We therefore presume that, in the future, it will be even more important to manage forests in a way that they have a high diversity of tree species."

A separate iDiv-led study on the same plots found that optimising one woodland ecosystem service did not detract from delivery of others.

Its lead author Fons van der Plas said: "Our study has shown that ecosystem multifunctionality is not just a theoretical concept, but that it is valid in forests throughout Europe, as the promotion of one type of service can go hand-in-hand with the promotion of other types of services."

Both studies are published in the journal Ecology Letters.

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