Cedar Creek Study Investigates Beta Diversity Impact on Plant Biomass Amid Climate Change

by Anna

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve are delving into the intricacies of beta diversity to comprehend its influence on plant biomass—a critical factor in ecological and environmental functions, particularly in the face of climate change. The Cedar Creek Reserve, with its diverse habitats, serves as an ideal setting for the BetaDIV experiment, led by postdoctoral research associate Karen Castillioni and Associate Professor Forest Isbell.

The experiment, recently reported in Landscape Ecology, focused on five distinct habitats within Cedar Creek: oak savanna, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, bog, and an old grassland. Seedlings from dominant species in each habitat were transplanted into monocultures and mixtures, enabling researchers to observe their performance and measure biomass production through seedling survival, a key indicator of ecosystem productivity.

Key findings from the study include:

Species thriving in monoculture are often the same dominant species in mixtures, emphasizing their resilience across various habitats.

Survival rates are higher for species in habitats where they exhibit greater productivity—showcasing the connection between dominance outside the experiment and success within it.

The ongoing experiment aims to track the establishment of these transplanted seedlings into adulthood and assess long-term factors like productivity and biomass production. As climate change progresses, understanding how beta diversity influences biomass could offer valuable insights for preserving diversity and ecosystem stability.

Castillioni noted, “We are trying to track if they can become established adults. And then, in the long term, we can start measuring things like productivity, things like how much biomass the trees and grasses produce over time as they occupy different ecosystems in the landscape.” The researchers hope to uncover evidence supporting the idea that species exhibit increased biomass production in mixtures compared to monocultures, providing critical information for biodiversity preservation in a changing climate.

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