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Forest structure, not climate, is the primary driver of functional diversity in northeastern North America

Abstract : Functional diversity (FD), represented by plant traits, is fundamentally linked to an ecosystem's capacity to respond to environmental change. Yet, little is known about the spatial distribution of FD and its drivers. These knowledge gaps prevent the development of FD-based forest management approaches to increase the trait diversity insurance (i.e., the response diversity) against future environmental fluctuations and disturbances. Our study helps fill these knowledge gaps by (i) mapping the current FD distribution, (ii) and analyzing FD drivers across northeastern North America. Following the stress-dominance hypothesis, we expected a strong environmental filtering effect on FD. Moreover, we expected abundant species to determine the bulk of FD distributions as suggested by the mass-ratio hypothesis. We combined a literature and database review of 44 traits for 43 tree species with terrestrial inventory data of 48,426 plots spanning an environmental gradient from northern boreal to temperate biomes. We evaluated the statistical influence of 25 covariates related to forest structure, climate, topography, soils, and stewardship on FD by employing an ensemble approach consisting of 90 non-parametric models. Temperate forests and the boreal-temperate ecotone east and northeast of the Great Lakes were identified as FD hotspots. Environmental filtering by climate was of secondary importance, with forest structure explaining most of the FD distribution of tree species in northeastern North America. Thus, our study provides only partial support for the stress-dominance hypothesis. Species abundance weightings altered trait diversity distributions and drivers only marginally, supporting the mass-ratio hypothesis. Our results suggest that forest management could increase FD without requiring knowledge of functional ecology by fostering stand structural complexity instead. Further, mixing species from different functional groups identified in this study can enhance the trait diversity insurance of forests to an uncertain future.
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https://hal-cnrs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03347051
Contributor : Wilfried Thuiller Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 6:18:53 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 3:18:00 AM

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Dominik Thom, Anthony Taylor, Rupert Seidl, Wilfried Thuiller, Jiejie Wang, et al.. Forest structure, not climate, is the primary driver of functional diversity in northeastern North America. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2021, 762, pp.143070. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143070⟩. ⟨hal-03347051⟩

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