Biodiv Sci ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (10): 1054-1064.DOI: 10.17520/biods.2017155

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Scale dependent effects of species diversity and structural diversity on aboveground biomass in a tropical forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Shanshan Tan2, Renren Wang1,2, Xiaoling Gong1,2, Jiayao Cai2, Guochun Shen1,2,*()   

  1. 1 Tiantong National Station for Forest Ecosystem Research, Ningbo, Zhejiang 315114
    2 School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241
  • Received:2017-05-26 Accepted:2017-09-01 Online:2017-10-20 Published:2018-05-05
  • Contact: Shen Guochun


With global decreases in species diversity, the effects of species diversity on aboveground biomass of forest communities, especially tropical forests which store nearly half of terrestrial carbon, have received much attention. It is commonly assumed that species diversity can promote the accumulation of aboveground biomass in forest communities. However, increasing evidence suggests that this positive effect of species diversity can be influenced or neutralized by structural diversity and various abiotic environmental variables. It is still far from clear whether scale dependent effects of various drivers of aboveground biomass exist. Using structural equation modeling, we examined direct and indirect drivers of aboveground biomass in a 50 ha tropical forest dynamics plot on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama. Our results showed that the effect of species diversity on aboveground biomass was non-significant at the smallest scale and became significantly negative at larger scales. The strength of this negative effect increased with spatial scales. Conversely, structural diversity had a significant positive effect on aboveground biomass and the strength of this effect decreased with scale. Abiotic variables had some relationships with both types of diversity and can indirectly affect aboveground biomass. These results suggest that positive relationships between species diversity and aboveground biomass in conventional studies may be caused by structural diversity. The relationship between species diversity and aboveground biomass is more likely to be negative, due to under the gap dynamics and strong asymmetric competition in forest communities.

Key words: aboveground biomass, species diversity, structural diversity, spatial scale, abiotic factors, structural equation modeling, large-scale forest dynamics plot