Tree species mixtures influencing forest structure and phenology

In forest ecosystems trees are the dominant element of the vertical and horizontal structure of these ecosystems and they interact to fill the 3-dimensional space from the canopy to the forest floor. A hypothesis that we are testing, is that forests with more species (a greater combination of structural traits) interact to form complex environments and are acting to use the space more efficiently. By doing so, the trees would also maximize their light interception and as a result, fill the space with more biomass. If this is true, it would help to explain why species rich forests are more productive than species poor ones.

A property that we are studying through the use of time-lapse photography is forest phenology. Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of events in nature: when flowers bloom, trees leaf out, birds migrate, animals hibernate, fish spawn, phytoplankton blooms, lakes freeze and the like.

We installed cameras in all the forest plots of FunDivEUROPE that take three pictures per day for the entire season. With these time-series of images we can then calculate the timing of different seasonal events and measure the growth of the forest. Knowing phenological timing with such high resolution, we can then ask whether species diversity affects the length of the growing season. If species diversity, for example, enhances the growing season significantly, then the amount of additional carbon it would sequester at a forest stand or landscape scale is, potentially, extremely large.

An outgrowth from a node on a plant's stem and come in many shapes and sizes, they are often green and flattened to maximise their surface area for the capture of energy from sunlight and exchange gases that are used for photosynthesis by means of the chlorophyll pigment contained in chloroplasts.
Biodiversity at the species level, often combining aspects of species richness, their relative abundance, and their dissimilarity (MA, 2005). Species diversity is a function of the number of species and the evenness in the abundance of the component species. (Kindt et al. 2006)
Ian Seiferling - Forest Structure and Phenology influenced by tree species mixtures

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