University of Oulu

Happonen, K., Muurinen, L., Virtanen, R., Kaakinen, E., Grytnes, J.-A., Kaarlejärvi, E., Parisot, P., Wolff, M., & Maliniemi, T. (2021). Trait-based responses to land use and canopy dynamics modify long-term diversity changes in forest understories. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 30, 1863–1875.

Trait-based responses to land use and canopy dynamics modify long-term diversity changes in forest understories

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Author: Happonen, Konsta1; Muurinen, Lauralotta2; Virtanen, Risto2;
Organizations: 1Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
4Research Center for Ecological Change, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
5Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-08-18


Aim: Land use is the foremost cause of global biodiversity decline, but species do not respond equally to land-use practices. Instead, it is suggested that responses vary with species traits, but long-term data on the trait-mediated effects of land use on communities are scarce. Here we study how forest understorey communities have been affected by two land-use practices during 4–5 decades, and whether changes in plant diversity are related to changes in functional composition.

Location: Finland.

Time period: 1968–2019.

Major taxa studied: Vascular plants.

Methods: We resurveyed 245 vegetation plots in boreal herb-rich forest understories, and used hierarchical Bayesian linear models to relate changes in diversity, species composition, average plant size, and leaf economic traits to reindeer abundance, forest management intensity, and changes in climate, canopy cover and composition. We also studied the relationship between species evenness and plant size across both space and time.

Results: Intensively managed forests decreased in species richness and had increased turnover, but management did not affect functional composition. Increased reindeer densities corresponded with increased leaf dry matter content, evenness and diversity, and decreased height and specific leaf area. Successional development in the canopy was associated with increased specific leaf area and decreased leaf dry matter content and height in the understorey over the study period. Effects of reindeer abundance and canopy density on diversity were partially mediated by vegetation height, which had a negative relationship with evenness across both space and time. Observed changes in climate had no discernible effect on any variable.

Main conclusions: Functional traits are useful in connecting vegetation changes to the mechanisms that drive them, and provide unique information compared to turnover and diversity metrics. These trait-dependent selection effects could inform which species benefit and which suffer from land-use changes and explain observed biodiversity changes under global change.

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Series: Global ecology and biogeography. A journal of macroecology
ISSN: 1466-822X
ISSN-E: 1466-822X
ISSN-L: 1466-822X
Volume: 30
Issue: 9
Pages: 1863 - 1875
DOI: 10.1111/geb.13351
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The authors acknowledge funding from Societas Pro Fauna et Flora Fennica, Societas Biologica Fennica Vanamo, Societas Amicorum Naturae Ouluensis, Academy of Finland (project #259072), Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Finnish Society of Forest Science and Jane & Aatos Erkko Foundation.
Dataset Reference: The data and scripts used to produce these results have been deposited in Zenodo (Happonen et al., 2021).
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.