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Effects of structural and physiological forest attributes on biodiversity, multi-trophic interactions and ecosystem functions across vertical forest layers


Forests are complex, biodiversity-rich ecosystems. Their biodiversity is strongly influenced by the structural and physiological characteristics of tree stands between ground vegetation and tree canopy. This project investigates the biotic communities and food webs between ground vegetation and tree canopies, contributing to a better understanding of the three-dimensional relationship between forest structure and physiology, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions.


Content and goals of the research project

Today, modern remote sensing techniques make it possible to record the structural and physiological properties of forests at high resolution and in three dimensions. This opens up new opportunities to study the relationship between forest stands and biodiversity in greater depth. However, this requires that biodiversity is recorded across all vegetation layers, namely the ground vegetation, the shrub layer and the canopy layer. This is done in this research project, which analyzes the relationship between structural and physiological forest characteristics, species richness, and food webs in a mixed deciduous forest in Switzerland. In particular, it investigates how biodiversity within and between vegetation layers depends on structural and physiological forest features and how multitrophic interactions influence ecosystem functions.

In a first phase, structural and physiological forest characteristics will be described with airborne and terrestrial remote sensing methods and 10 functionally and phylogenetically distinct species groups and their interaction networks will be recorded across the three vegetation layers. In a second phase, independent remote sensing data will be used to model forest biodiversity and specific ecosystem functions for an entire canton. These predictions will then be validated with an independent dataset from a biodiversity monitoring program.


Scientific and social context of the research project

The project addresses relationships between forest stands and their biodiversity in the context of ecosystem functions. We will learn how forest stand characteristics that can be influenced by forestry can affect species communities and their interactions in forests. The results can inform adaptive, multi-functional forest management aimed at maintaining forest biodiversity and ecosystem functions, thereby increasing the resilience of managed forests to future environmental change.