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Bernhardt-Romermann M.,Friedrich - Schiller University of Jena | Baeten L.,Ghent University | Craven D.,German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research iDiv | Craven D.,University of Leipzig | And 41 more authors.
Global Change Biology | Year: 2015

Global biodiversity is affected by numerous environmental drivers. Yet, the extent to which global environmental changes contribute to changes in local diversity is poorly understood. We investigated biodiversity changes in a meta-analysis of 39 resurvey studies in European temperate forests (3988 vegetation records in total, 17-75 years between the two surveys) by assessing the importance of (i) coarse-resolution (i.e., among sites) vs. fine-resolution (i.e., within sites) environmental differences and (ii) changing environmental conditions between surveys. Our results clarify the mechanisms underlying the direction and magnitude of local-scale biodiversity changes. While not detecting any net local diversity loss, we observed considerable among-site variation, partly explained by temporal changes in light availability (a local driver) and density of large herbivores (a regional driver). Furthermore, strong evidence was found that presurvey levels of nitrogen deposition determined subsequent diversity changes. We conclude that models forecasting future biodiversity changes should consider coarse-resolution environmental changes, account for differences in baseline environmental conditions and for local changes in fine-resolution environmental conditions. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Baeten L.,Ghent University | Vangansbeke P.,Ghent University | Hermy M.,Catholic University of Leuven | Peterken G.,Beechwood House | And 2 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2012

Compositional changes through local extinction and colonization are inherent to natural communities, but human activities are increasingly influencing the rate and nature of the species being lost and gained. Biotic homogenization refers to the process by which the compositional similarity of communities increases over time through a non-random reshuffling of species. Despite the extensive conceptual development of the homogenization framework, approaches to quantify patterns of homogenization are scarcely developed. Most studies have used classical dissimilarity indices that actually quantify two components of compositional variation: turnover and nestedness. Here we demonstrate that a method that partitions those two components reveals patterns of homogenization that are otherwise obscured using traditional techniques. The forest understorey vegetation of an unmanaged reserve was recorded in permanent plots in 1979 and 2009. In only thirty years, the local species richness significantly decreased and the variation in the species composition from site to site shifted towards a structure with reduced true species turnover and increased dissimilarity due to nestedness. A classic analysis masked those patterns. In summary, we illustrated the need to move beyond the simple quantification of homogenization using classical indices and advocate integration of the multitude of ways to quantify community similarity into the homogenization framework. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

Verheyen K.,Ghent University | Baeten L.,Ghent University | De Frenne P.,Ghent University | Bernhardt-Romermann M.,Goethe University Frankfurt | And 18 more authors.
Journal of Ecology | Year: 2012

Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition is expected to change forest understorey plant community composition and diversity, but results of experimental addition studies and observational studies are not yet conclusive. A shortcoming of observational studies, which are generally based on resurveys or sampling along large deposition gradients, is the occurrence of temporal or spatial confounding factors. We were able to assess the contribution of N deposition versus other ecological drivers on forest understorey plant communities by combining a temporal and spatial approach. Data from 1205 (semi-)permanent vegetation plots taken from 23 rigorously selected understorey resurvey studies along a large deposition gradient across deciduous temperate forest in Europe were compiled and related to various local and regional driving factors, including the rate of atmospheric N deposition, the change in large herbivore densities and the change in canopy cover and composition. Although no directional change in species richness occurred, there was considerable floristic turnover in the understorey plant community and a shift in species composition towards more shade-tolerant and nutrient-demanding species. However, atmospheric N deposition was not important in explaining the observed eutrophication signal. This signal seemed mainly related to a shift towards a denser canopy cover and a changed canopy species composition with a higher share of species with more easily decomposed litter. Synthesis. Our multi-site approach clearly demonstrates that one should be cautious when drawing conclusions about the impact of atmospheric N deposition based on the interpretation of plant community shifts in single sites or regions due to other, concurrent, ecological changes. Even though the effects of chronically increased N deposition on the forest plant communities are apparently obscured by the effects of canopy changes, the accumulated N might still have a significant impact. However, more research is needed to assess whether this N time bomb will indeed explode when canopies will open up again. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society. Source

Bradshaw R.H.W.,University of Liverpool | Josefsson T.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences | Clear J.L.,University of Liverpool | Peterken G.F.,Beechwood House
Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research | Year: 2011

Jones (1945) was a milestone paper exploring the natural forest concept with examples from the temperate and boreal ecosystems. It has become a classic because of its use of field observation of regeneration, succession and structure to assess theories about disturbance and the dynamic properties of natural forests. His main aim was to review some of the features of the structure and reproduction of the north temperate virgin forests, and this article presents, discusses and evaluates the main features of this legendary paper. Jones had international experience of both the ecological and silvicultural research communities and combined long-term field observations with theory to develop a realistic assessment of natural forest properties that formed the basis for current understanding. He demonstrated that natural disturbance regimes could generate a variety of structures and that a stable, "climax" forest concept was often not supported by field data. He also showed that even-aged components are common in these forest ecosystems and that the recruitment of tree species proceeds irregularly even in undisturbed stands. His work has influenced subsequent development of related subjects such as disturbance theory, gap-phase dynamics and long-term vegetation changes and has left a legacy with practical relevance for nature conservation and silviculture. © 2011 Taylor & Francis. Source

De Frenne P.,Ghent University | De Frenne P.,University of Cambridge | Coomes D.A.,University of Cambridge | De Schrijver A.,Ghent University | And 28 more authors.
New Phytologist | Year: 2014

Most range shift predictions focus on the dispersal phase of the colonization process. Because moving populations experience increasingly dissimilar nonclimatic environmental conditions as they track climate warming, it is also critical to test how individuals originating from contrasting thermal environments can establish in nonlocal sites. We assess the intraspecific variation in growth responses to nonlocal soils by planting a widespread grass of deciduous forests (Milium effusum) into an experimental common garden using combinations of seeds and soil sampled in 22 sites across its distributional range, and reflecting movement scenarios of up to 1600 km. Furthermore, to determine temperature and forest-structural effects, the plants and soils were experimentally warmed and shaded. We found significantly positive effects of the difference between the temperature of the sites of seed and soil collection on growth and seedling emergence rates. Migrant plants might thus encounter increasingly favourable soil conditions while tracking the isotherms towards currently 'colder' soils. These effects persisted under experimental warming. Rising temperatures and light availability generally enhanced plant performance. Our results suggest that abiotic and biotic soil characteristics can shape climate change-driven plant movements by affecting growth of nonlocal migrants, a mechanism which should be integrated into predictions of future range shifts. © 2014 New Phytologist Trust. Source

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