Drivers of seedling survival in a temperate forest and their relative importance at three stages of succession
CITATION: Yan, Y. et al. 2015. Drivers of seedling survival in a temperate forest and their relative importance at three stages of succession. Ecology and Evolution, 5(19):4287–4299, doi:10.1002/ece3.1688.
The original publication is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)2045-7758
Negative density dependence (NDD) and niche partitioning have been perceived as important mechanisms for the maintenance of species diversity. However, little is known about their relative contributions to seedling survival. We examined the effects of biotic and abiotic neighborhoods and the variations of biotic neighborhoods among species using survival data for 7503 seedlings belonging to 22 woody species over a period of 2 years in three different forest types, a half-mature forest (HF), a mature forest (MF), and an old-growth forest (OGF), each of these representing a specific successional stage in a temperate forest ecosystem in northeastern China. We found a convincing evidence for the existence of NDD in temperate forest ecosystems. The biotic and abiotic variables affecting seedlings survival change with successional stage, seedling size, and age. The strength of NDD for the smaller (<20 cm in height) and younger seedlings (1–2 years) as well as all seedlings combined varies significantly among species. We found no evidence that a community compensatory trend (CCT) existed in our study area. The results of this study demonstrate that the relative importance of NDD and habitat niche partitioning in driving seedling survival varies with seedling size and age and that the biotic and abiotic factors affecting seedlings survival change with successional stage.