Tree identity rather than tree diversity drives earthworm communities in European forests


De Wandeler H, Bruelheide H, Dawud SM, Danila G, Domisch T, Finer L, Hermy M, Jaroszewicz B, Joly F, Muller S, Ratcliffe S, Raulund-Rasmussen K, Rota E, Van Meerbeek K, Vesterdal L & Muys B (2018) Tree identity rather than tree diversity drives earthworm communities in European forests. Pedobiologia, 67, pp. 16-25.

Given the key role of belowground biota on forest ecosystem functioning, it is important to identify the factors that influence their abundance and composition. However, the understanding of the ecological linkage between tree diversity and belowground biota is still insufficient. Here we investigated the influence of tree diversity (richness, True Shannon diversity index, functional diversity) and identity (proportion of evergreen leaf litter and leaf litter quality) on earthworm species richness and biomass at a continental and regional scale, using data from a Europe-wide forest research platform (FunDivEUROPE) spanning six major forest types. We found a marked tree identity effect at the continental scale, with proportion of evergreen leaf litter negatively affecting total earthworm biomass and species richness, as well as their biomass per functional group. Furthermore, there were clear litter quality effects with a latitudinal variation in trait-specific responses. In north and central Europe, earthworm biomass and species richness clearly increased with increasing litter nutrient concentrations (decreasing C:N ratio and increasing calcium concentration), whereas this influence of litter nutrients was absent or even reversed in southern Europe. In addition, although earthworms were unaffected by the number of tree species, tree diversity positively affected earthworm biomass at the continental scale through functional diversity of the leaf litter. By focusing on tree leaf litter traits, this study advanced our understanding of the mechanisms driving tree identity effects and supported previous findings that litter quality, as a proxy of tree identity, was a stronger driver of earthworm species richness and biomass than tree diversity

FunDivEUROPE; litter functional traits; litter quality; soil fauna; species richness; tree functional diversity

Pedobiologia: Volume 67

Publication date31/03/2018
Publication date online02/02/2018
Date accepted by journal26/01/2018