Within the framework of Alexandre Fruleux’s PhD project, a new paper, available online at Oecologia, investigates the underlying mechanisms linking forest productivity and diversity of tree species.
Abstract: Aboveground overyielding in a mixed temperate forest is not explained by belowground processes
The relationship between forest productivity and tree species diversity has been described in detail, but the underlying processes have yet to be identified. One important issue is to understand which processes are at the origin of observed aboveground overyielding in some mixed forests. We used a beech–maple plantation exhibiting aboveground overyielding to test whether belowground processes could explain this pattern. Soil cores were collected to determine fine root (FR) biomass and vertical distribution. Correlograms were used to detect spatial arrangement. Near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy was used to identify the tree species proportion in the FR samples and spatial root segregation. An isotopic approach was used to identify water acquisition patterns. The structure and the composition of the ectomycorrhizal fungal community were determined by high-throughput sequencing of DNA in the soil samples. We found no spatial pattern for FR biomass or for its vertical distribution along the gradients. No vertical root segregation was found, as FR density for both species decreased with depth in a similar way. The two species displayed similar vertical water acquisition profiles as well, mainly absorbing water from shallow soil layers; hence, niche differentiation for water acquisition was not highlighted here. Significant alterations in the fungal community compositions were detected in function of the percentage of maple in the vicinity of beech. Our findings do not support the commonly suggested drivers of aboveground overyielding in species-diverse forests and suggest that competition reduction or between-species facilitation of belowground resource acquisition may not explain the observed aboveground overyielding.