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Positive biodiversity-productivity relationship predominant in global forests

Liang, J; Crowther, TW; Picard, N; Wiser, S; Zhou, M; Alberti, G; Schulze, E-D; ... Reich, PB; + view all (2016) Positive biodiversity-productivity relationship predominant in global forests. Science , 354 (6309) , Article aaf8957. 10.1126/science.aaf8957. Green open access

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: The biodiversity-productivity relationship (BPR; the effect of biodiversity on ecosystem productivity) is foundational to our understanding of the global extinction crisis and its impacts on the functioning of natural ecosystems. The BPR has been a prominent research topic within ecology in recent decades, but it is only recently that we have begun to develop a global perspective. / RATIONALE: Forests are the most important global repositories of terrestrial biodiversity, but deforestation, forest degradation, climate change, and other factors are threatening approximately one half of tree species worldwide. Although there have been substantial efforts to strengthen the preservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity throughout the globe, the consequences of this diversity loss pose a major uncertainty for ongoing international forest management and conservation efforts. The forest BPR represents a critical missing link for accurate valuation of global biodiversity and successful integration of biological conservation and socioeconomic development. Until now, there have been limited tree-based diversity experiments, and the forest BPR has only been explored within regional-scale observational studies. Thus, the strength and spatial variability of this relationship remains unexplored at a global scale. / RESULTS We explored the effect of tree species richness on tree volume productivity at the global scale using repeated forest inventories from 777,126 permanent sample plots in 44 countries containing more than 30 million trees from 8737 species spanning most of the global terrestrial biomes. Our findings reveal a consistent positive concave-down effect of biodiversity on forest productivity across the world, showing that a continued biodiversity loss would result in an accelerating decline in forest productivity worldwide. The BPR shows considerable geospatial variation across the world. The same percentage of biodiversity loss would lead to a greater relative (that is, percentage) productivity decline in the boreal forests of North America, Northeastern Europe, Central Siberia, East Asia, and scattered regions of South-central Africa and South-central Asia. In the Amazon, West and Southeastern Africa, Southern China, Myanmar, Nepal, and the Malay Archipelago, however, the same percentage of biodiversity loss would lead to greater absolute productivity decline. / CONCLUSION: Our findings highlight the negative effect of biodiversity loss on forest productivity and the potential benefits from the transition of monocultures to mixed-species stands in forestry practices. The BPR we discover across forest ecosystems worldwide corresponds well with recent theoretical advances, as well as with experimental and observational studies on forest and nonforest ecosystems. On the basis of this relationship, the ongoing species loss in forest ecosystems worldwide could substantially reduce forest productivity and thereby forest carbon absorption rate to compromise the global forest carbon sink. We further estimate that the economic value of biodiversity in maintaining commercial forest productivity alone is $166 billion to $490 billion per year. Although representing only a small percentage of the total value of biodiversity, this value is two to six times as much as it would cost to effectively implement conservation globally. These results highlight the necessity to reassess biodiversity valuation and the potential benefits of integrating and promoting biological conservation in forest resource management and forestry practices worldwide.

Type: Article
Title: Positive biodiversity-productivity relationship predominant in global forests
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8957
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf8957
Language: English
Additional information: This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science Vol. 354, Issue 6309, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8957.
Keywords: science & technology, multidisciplinary sciences, science & technology - other topics, plant-species richness, ecosystem productivity, tree productivity, European beech, pure stands, conservation, diversity, poverty, scale, multifunctionality
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1535452
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