How do tree species diversity and composition carry over their environmental legacies to future forest generations?

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Community ecology
    • Soil ecology
    • Terrestrial ecology
    • Plant ecology
  • Agricultural and food sciences
    • Forestry sciences not elsewhere classified
tree species diversity
Project description

The diversity and composition of the tree community influence the biotic and abiotic soil properties. Here we will study how these effects are carried over to future forest generations, affecting tree establishment, vitality, and species composition. First, we will analyse soil samples from stands varying in tree diversity and composition, both in recently established young forest and in mature forest. This allows studying the initial tree effects versus the effects when the trees have been affecting the soil for a long time, respectively. Second, we will set up pot experiments by sowing tree species in pots containing the soil originating from the young and mature forest sites and growing these seedlings for two years in a semi-controlled environment. Here, we test for possible (interactive) biotic and abiotic carry-over effects caused by tree species identity and diversity effects, by looking at the seedling performance and composition. In addition, we will also test the influence of the carry-over effects on the response of seedlings to a drought period, as
summer droughts are expected to be more severe and frequent due to climate change. The results of this project are expected to provide a better understanding of the way current tree diversity has an impact on a future forest generation, which is important given the ongoing shift towards natural forest regeneration methods in forest management.