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Ecology. 2019 Mar 14:e02653. doi: 10.1002/ecy.2653. [Epub ahead of print]

Forest fragmentation modulates effects of tree species richness and composition on ecosystem multifunctionality.

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Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Ghent, Belgium.
Department Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820, Merelbeke, Belgium.
Forest & Nature Lab, Department Forest and Water Management, Ghent University, Geraardsbergsesteenweg 267, 9090, Gontrode, Belgium.
Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000, Gent, Belgium.


Forest fragments in highly disturbed landscapes provide important ecosystem services ranging from acting as biodiversity reservoir to providing timber or regulating hydrology. Managing the tree species richness and composition of these fragments to optimize their functioning and the deliverance of multiple ecosystem services is of great practical relevance. However, both the strength and direction of tree species richness and tree species composition effects on forest ecosystem multifunctionality may depend on the landscape context in which these forest remnants are embedded. Taking advantage of an observatory network of 53 temperate forest plots varying in tree species richness, tree species composition, and fragmentation intensity we measured 24 ecosystem functions spanning multiple trophic levels and analyzed how tree species diversity-multifunctionality relationships changed with fragmentation intensity. Our results show that fragmentation generally increases multifunctionality and strengthens its positive relationship with diversity, possibly due to edge effects. In addition, different tree species combinations optimize functioning under different fragmentation levels. We conclude that management and restoration of forest fragments aimed at maximizing ecosystem multifunctionality should be tailored to the specific landscape context. As forest fragmentation will continue, tree diversity will become increasingly important to maintain forest functioning.


arthropods; birds; landscape; pathogens; soil; understory


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