Prevalence and strength of density-dependent tree recruitment.
Density dependence could maintain diversity in forests, but studies continue to disagree on its role. Part of the disagreement results from the fact that different studies have evaluated different responses (survival, recruitment, or growth) of different stages (seeds, seedlings, or adults) to different inputs (density of seedlings, density or distance to adults). Most studies are conducted on a single site and thus are difficult to generalize. Using USDA Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis data, we analyzed over a million seedling-to-sapling recruitment observations of 50 species from the eastern United States, controlling for the effects of climate. We focused on the per-seedling recruitment rate, because it is most likely to promote diversity and to be identified in observational or experimental data. To understand the prevalence of density dependence, we quantified the number of species with significant positive or negative effects. To understand the strength of density dependence, we determined the magnitude of effects among con- and heterospecifics, and how it changes with overall species abundance. We found that density dependence is pervasive among the 50 species, as the majority of them have significant effects and mostly negative. Density-dependence effects are stronger from conspecific than heterospecfic adult neighbors, consistent with the predictions of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis. Contrary to recent reports, density-dependence effects are more negative for common than rare species, suggesting disproportionately stronger population regulation in common species. We conclude that density dependence is pervasive, and it is strongest from conspecific neighbors of common species. Our analysis provides direct evidence that density dependence reaulates opulation dynamics of tree species in eastern U.S. forests.
Zhu, K; Woodall, CW; Monteiro, JVD; Clark, JS
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