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.