Soil elements influencing community structure in an old-growth forest in Northeastern China

Xu, Wei ; Hao, Minhui ; Wang, Juan ; Zhang, Chunyu ; Zhao, Xiuhai ; Von Gadow, Klaus (2016)

CITATION: Xu, W., et al. 2016. Soil elements influencing community structure in an old-growth forest in Northeastern China. Forests, 7(8):159, doi:10.3390/f7080159.

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This study uses detailed soil and vegetation data collected in a 30-ha old-growth broad-leaved Korean pine forest to study the effect of soil properties on tree community structures. Spatial distribution patterns are simulated using a homogeneous Poisson process (HomP) and a homogeneous Thomas process (HomT). The simulated distributions are compared with the observed ones to explore correlations between certain tree species and several soil elements. The HomP model shows that all tested tree species are significantly correlated with at least one principal component in the upper-layer soil elements. The HomT model shows that only 36.4% of tree species are significantly correlated with the principal component of at least one upper-layer soil element. This result shows that the impact of dispersal limitation is greater than impact of environmental heterogeneity on species spatial distributions. The spatial autocorrelation of species induced by the dispersal limitation will largely conceal the plant-soil relationships caused by the heterogeneity of soil elements. An additional analysis shows that the elements in the upper soil layer which have the greatest impact on community niche structure are Pb, total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), Cu, Cr, Zn and available nitrogen (AN). The corresponding elements in the lower soil layers are Pb, TP, Cu, organic carbon (OC), Mn, total potassium (TK) and AN. Different species seem to be complementary regarding the demands on the available soil resources. The results of this study show that the tree species in the different growth groups have different habitat preferences. Compared with subcanopy and shrub species, the canopy species have more significant correlations with the soil elements.

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