A critical assessment of the biodiversity-productivity relationship in forests and implications for conservation.
The question of whether biodiversity conservation and carbon conservation can be synergistic hinges on the form of the biodiversity-productivity relationship (BPR), a fundamental ecological pattern. The stakes are particularly high when it comes to forests, which at a global level comprises a large fraction of both biodiversity and carbon. And yet, in forests, the BPR is relatively poorly understood. In this review, we critically evaluate research on forest BPRs, focussing on the experimental and observational studies of the last 2 decades. We find general support for a positive forest BPR, suggesting that biodiversity and carbon conservation are synergistic to a degree. However, we identify several major caveats: (i) although, on average, productivity may increase with biodiversity, the highest-yielding forests are often monocultures of very productive species; (ii) productivity typically saturates at fewer than ten species; (iii) positive BPRs can be driven by some third variable, in particular stem density, instead of a causal arrow from biodiversity to productivity; (iv) the BPR's sign and magnitude varies across spatial grains and extents, and it may be weak at scales relevant to conservation; and (v) most productivity estimates in forests are associated with large errors. We conclude by explaining the importance of these caveats for both conservation programmes focussed on protection of existing forests and conservation programmes focussed on restoring or replanting forests.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00442-023-05363-4
View details for PubMedID 36977811
View details for PubMedCentralID 3841117