Forests play an important role in regulating the global carbon cycle. Yet, how abiotic (i.e. soil nutrients) and biotic (i.e. tree diversity, stand structure and initial biomass) factors simultaneously contribute to aboveground biomass (coarse woody) productivity, and how the relative importance of these factors changes over succession remain poorly studied. Coarse woody productivity (CWP) was estimated as the annual aboveground biomass gain of stems using 10-year census data in old growth and secondary forests (25-ha and 4.8-ha, respectively) in northeast China. Boosted regression tree (BRT) model was used to evaluate the relative contribution of multiple metrics of tree diversity (taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity and trait composition as well as stand structure attributes), stand initial biomass and soil nutrients on productivity in the studied forests. Our results showed that community-weighted mean of leaf phosphorus content, initial stand biomass and soil nutrients were the three most important individual predictors for CWP in secondary forest. Instead, initial stand biomass, rather than diversity and functional trait composition (vegetation quality) was the most parsimonious predictor of CWP in old growth forest. By comparing the results from secondary and old growth forest, the summed relative contribution of trait composition and soil nutrients on productivity decreased as those of diversity indices and initial biomass increased, suggesting the stronger effect of diversity and vegetation quantity over time. Vegetation quantity, rather than diversity and soil nutrients, is the main driver of forest productivity in temperate mixed forest. Our results imply that diversity effect for productivity in natural forests may not be so important as often suggested, at least not during the later stage of forest succession. This finding suggests that as a change of the importance of different divers of productivity, the environmentally driven filtering decreases and competitively driven niche differentiation increases with forest succession.
Keywords: Functional traits; Mass ratio; Niche complementarity; Soil nutrients; Succession; Vegetation quantity.
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