Climate reverses directionality in the richness–abundance relationship across the World’s main forest biomes


More tree species can increase the carbon storage capacity of forests (here referred to as the more species hypothesis) through increased tree productivity and tree abundance resulting from complementarity, but they can also be the consequence of increased tree abundance through increased available energy (more individuals hypothesis). To test these two contrasting hypotheses, we analyse the most plausible pathways in the richness-abundance relationship and its stability along global climatic gradients. We show that positive effect of species richness on tree abundance only prevails in eight of the twenty-three forest regions considered in this study. In the other forest regions, any benefit from having more species is just as likely (9 regions) or even less likely (6 regions) than the effects of having more individuals. We demonstrate that diversity effects prevail in the most productive environments, and abundance effects become dominant towards the most limiting conditions. These findings can contribute to refining cost-effective mitigation strategies based on fostering carbon storage through increased tree diversity. Specifically, in less productive environments, mitigation measures should promote abundance of locally adapted and stress tolerant tree species instead of increasing species richness.

Nature Communications, (11), 1, pp. 5635,