Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Drivers of temporal changes in temperate forest plant diversity


Together with an international team, an ecologist of the University of Jena (Germany) presents a detailed analysis of biodiversity for temperate forests in Europe

Climate change, environmental pollution or land use changes – there are numerous influences threatening biodiversity in forests around the globe. The resulting decrease in biodiversity is a matter of common knowledge today – amongst scientists as well as amongst the general public.

Alder swamp forest with thick herb layer. Scientists found out that – on average – the biodiversity in the herb layer has not changed in recent decades.

Photo: Markus Bernhardt-Roemermann/FSU Jena

But this is a simplified view, says Dr. Markus Bernhardt-Römermann of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). “At least a trend like this doesn't apply to all forests on the local scale.“ This is the result of a new study by the Jena ecologist and co-authors which is published today (27th July) in the scientific journal 'Global Change Biology' (DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12993).

Biodiversity in the herb layer has not changed in recent decades

Together with an international team of scientists from all over Europe, Bernhardt-Römermann comprehensively analysed the biodiversity in forests of the temperate zone of Europe. They found out that – on average – the biodiversity in the herb layer has not changed in recent decades.

This initially surprising result however doesn't mean that all is well in terms of biodiversity, as the ecologist points out: “The changes can be really grave on the local level.” In some areas, biodiversity has clearly been on the decrease, while at the same time it has been increasing in others.

Bernhardt-Römermann and his colleagues analysed data derived from the research platform “forestREplot“, which was established by scientists from Belgium, the Czech Republic and the USA together with the Jena ecologist Bernhardt-Römermann.

In a database, data characterizing the temporal development of plant species composition in forests of the temperate climate zone around the world is collected. “When data on the vegetation is collected on the same plot at several time steps, temporal changes can be identified,” Bernhardt-Römermann says.

For the new study the ecologists combined data from 13 European countries – from Switzerland and Hungary in the South to Sweden in the North and from Ireland in the West to Poland in the East – in one joint analysis. They analysed data form 39 selected deciduous forests at two different points in time (with a span of 17 to 75 years in between) and related them to changes in climate, forests management, nitrogen deposition and game population. The scientists were thus able to show the factors that are pivotal for the change of diversity in a particular area.

“We noticed that all in all the climate changes don't trigger a major change in diversity,” Bernhardt-Römermann sums up the baffling result. Much more influential for the diversity in the herb layer – apart from local factors like lighting conditions which can vary depending on forestry use – are most of all the availability of nitrogen and the density of the local game population. Thus for instance, populations of species which prefer open, thermophilous forests on mostly nutrient-poor soils are declining – such as the mountain sedge (Carex montana) or the scentless feverfew (Tanacetum corymbosum). At the same time, the remote sedge (Carex remota), the narrow buckler fern (Dryopteris carthusiana) and the rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis) – which grow in shaded and moist conditions often associated with increased nutrient availability – thrive distinctively better.

As a consequence from their findings, the researchers recommend to base future predictions for the development of biodiversity not only on global criteria like climate changes or land use scenarios, as these do not sufficiently take into consideration important local conditions. The local influences like game population and nitrogen availability should much rather be taken into account as well to improve the quality of predictions.

Original Publication:
Bernhardt-Römermann M, Baeten L, Craven D, De Frenne P, Hédl R, Lenoir J, Bert D, Brunet J, Chudomelová M, Decocq G, Dierschke H, Dirnböck T, Dörfler I, Heinken T, Hermy M, Hommel P, Jaroszewicz B, Keczyński A, Kelly DL, Kirby KJ, Kopecký M, Macek M, Máliš F, Mirtl M, Mitchell FJG, Naaf T, Newman M, Peterken G, Petřík P, Schmidt W, Standovár T, Tóth Z, Van Calster H, Verstraeten G, Vladovič J, Vild O, Wulf M, Verheyen K: Drivers of temporal changes in temperate forest plant diversity vary across spatial scales. Global Change Biology (2015). DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12993

Dr. Markus Bernhardt-Römermann
Institute of Ecology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Dornburger Straße 159, 07743 Jena
Phone: +49 3641 / 949435
E-mail: markus.bernhardt[at]

Weitere Informationen:

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>