Biodiversity Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (10): 1054-1064.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017155

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Article     Next Article

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:2018-05-05
  • 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

Fig. 1

Relationships between species diversity and total aboveground biomass at different spatial scales in a 50 ha tropical forest dynamics plot (BCI plot). Solid lines and their corresponding grey area are the regression lines and 95% confidence intervals from the best fitted model. R2 and P are the adjusted R2 and significance of the whole regression model, respectively."

Fig. 2

Relationships between structural diversity and total aboveground biomass at different spatial scales in a 50 ha tropical forest dynamics plot (BCI plot). Solid lines and their corresponding grey area are the regression lines and 95% confidence intervals from the best fitted model. R2 and P are the adjusted R2 and significance of the whole regression model, respectively."

Table 1

The standardized effects of stem density, species richness and structural diversity on the aboveground biomass in our best structural equation model"

Pathway to aboveground biomass
空间尺度 Spatial scale
10 m × 10 m 20 m × 20 m 50 m × 50 m
Stem density
直接效应 Direct effect - - -0.210
间接效应 Indirect effect 0.273 -0.005 -0.137
总效应 Total effect 0.273 -0.005 -0.347
Species richness
直接效应 Direct effect - -0.113 -0.284
间接效应 Indirect effect 0.046 0.029 -
总效应 Total effect 0.046 -0.084 -0.284
Structural diversity
直接效应 Direct effect 0.650 0.541 0.181
间接效应 Indirect effect - -0.012 -
总效应 Total effect 0.650 0.529 0.181

Fig. 3

The best fitted structural equation models (SEM) relating aboveground biomass to species diversity, structural diversity, soil nutrient and topographic factors at different spatial scales. Solid and dashed arrow lines represent the positive and negative effects, respectively. Width of arrow line indicates the strength of the path. Number and its associated asterisks are standardized path coefficient and significant level (*P < 0.05; ** P < 0.01; *** P < 0.001) for each path. Comparative fit index (CFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), Root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) were used to compare different alternative models. The corresponding values of these indices for the best fitted model were given in Appendix 2."

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