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Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species

A new study from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Future Forests shows that mixed forests, in comparison with monocultures, have positive effects on several different areas, including production. The study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, is based on material from the Swedish National Forest Inventory and the Swedish Forest Soil Inventory and examined the relationships between multiple ecosystem services and both tree species richness and tree biomass in boreal and temperate forest. By examining the role played by the occurrence of diverse tree species for six different ecosystem services (tree growth, carbon storage, berry production, food for wildlife, occurrence of dead wood, and biological diversity), the study demonstrates that all six services were positively related to the number of tree species.

Forests are of major importance to human society, contributing several crucial ecosystem services. Biodiversity is suggested to positively influence multiple services but evidence from natural systems at scales relevant to management is scarce. Here, across a scale of 400,000 km2, we report that tree species richness in production forests shows positive to positively hump-shaped relationships with multiple ecosystem services. These include production of tree biomass, soil carbon storage, berry production and game production potential. For example, biomass production was approximately 50% greater with five than with one tree species. In addition, we show positive relationships between tree species richness and proxies for other biodiversity components. Importantly, no single tree species was able to promote all services, and some services were negatively correlated to each other. Management of production forests will therefore benefit from considering multiple tree species to sustain the full range of benefits that the society obtains from forests.

Citation as follows:
Gamfeldt, L., Snäll, T., Bagchi, R., Jonsson, M., Gustafsson, L., Kjellander, P., Ruiz-Jaen, M.C., Fröberg, M., Stendahl, J., Philipson, C.D., Mikusiński, G., Andersson, E., Westerlund, B., Andrén, H., Moberg, F., Moen, J., Bengtsson, J. Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species. Nature Communications, 2013; 4: 1340 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2328

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