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 Lee, Arshad Ali, Zuoqiang Yuan, James A. Lutz, Jens-Christian Svenning, and Min-Ki Lee

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: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-60', Anonymous Referee #1, 30 Apr 2022
  • CC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-60', Sylvanus Mensah, 04 Dec 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2022-60', Anonymous Referee #2, 08 Dec 2022

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.