10 Mar 2022
10 Mar 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Large-diameter trees control forest structure and function in successional temperate forests

Chang-Bae Lee1, Arshad Ali2, Zuoqiang Yuan3, James A. Lutz4, Jens-Christian Svenning5, and Min-Ki Lee6 Chang-Bae Lee et al.
  • 1Department of Forestry, Environment and Systems, Kookmin University, 77 Jeongneungro, Seongbukgu, Seoul 02707, Republic of Korea
  • 2Forest Ecology Research Group, College of Life Sciences, Hebei University, Baoding, 071002, Hebei, China
  • 3CAS Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, China
  • 4Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA
  • 5Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) & Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
  • 6Department of Forest Resources, Kookmin University, 77 Jeongneungro, Seongbukgu, Seoul 02707, Republic of Korea

Abstract. Large-diameter trees regulate forest diversity, structure and aboveground biomass (AGB), but the mechanisms whereby they control forest processes remain understudied, especially in early successional forests. We used 1,956 0.16 ha plots from the Korean National Forest Inventory from mostly 20–50 years old stands (biomass accumulation phase) in closed-canopy temperate forests, with 236 species of woody plants and 391,543 individual stems ≥ 6 cm diameter at breast height. Based hereon, we analyzed the effects of large-diameter trees on aboveground biomass (AGB) in the overstory, understory, and the two combined (total vegetation). We also considered the effects of species and functional diversity, functional dominance of traits, stem density, and abiotic drivers (i.e., topographic, climatic and edaphic variables) interacting with large-diameter trees on AGB. We performed model averaging approaches with backward stepwise regressions and piecewise structural equation modeling to quantify and compare the effects of large trees vs. other biotic and abiotic drivers. Overall, large-diameter trees had a dominant effect on AGB compared with remaining tree attributes and abiotic drivers for both the overstory and whole community; however, they did not strongly influence the understory. Large-diameter trees also modulated the strength of the direct effects of abiotic drivers, particularly soil fertility, on AGB, as well as indirect effects via regulating the attributes of smaller-diameter trees. Our study provides new insights into the mechanisms associated with self-thinning and resource availability whereby large-diameter trees drive high AGB in succession forests. We also show that the effect of large-diameter trees is forest stratum-dependent across different types of temperate forests. This study emphasizes the importance of large-diameter trees in determining the structure and function in early successional forests, and the need for conservation and management actions to protect and promote these keystone organisms.

Chang-Bae Lee et al.

Status: open (until 14 Jul 2022)

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Chang-Bae Lee et al.

Chang-Bae Lee et al.


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Short summary
Large-diameter trees have an overwhelming effect on aboveground biomass (AGB) in successional temperate forests. Moreover, they mediate the effects of abiotic drivers on AGBs in overstory and whole community and play an important role in both controlling the diversity and structure of remaining trees. In addition, our study highlights the mechanisms of biomass dominance of large-diameter trees associated with self-thinning process and resource availability in successional forests.