The species-specific impact of trees on environmental conditions induces differences in understorey species richness and productivity

Trees have a species-specific impact on local environmental conditions. Messier et al. (1998) found differences among tree species in the
mean amount, variability and nature of the light reaching the forest floor. Tree species-specific effects on the amounts of throughfall, transpiration and water uptake by roots result in significant differences in soil water content among tree species (e.g. Barbier et al. 2008, 2009; Geiβler et al. 2012). Soil nutrient availability and acidity are also known to be influenced by the composition of the tree layer, as a result of tree species-specific differences in litter quality and quantity, nitrogen fixation, nutrient uptake and atmospheric
deposition on leaves and needles (e.g. Augusto et al. 2003; Hagen-Thorn et al. 2004). In addition, phytotoxic compounds in the litter of certain tree species and a thick litter layer may negatively affect germination and performance of understorey species (Rodríguez-Calcerrada et al. 2011). As a consequence of these tree species identity effects, the composition of the tree layer may substantially affect understorey composition and productivity as species in the
herb layer make specific demands on the environmental conditions (e.g.
Ellenberg & Leuschner 2010).

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