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Foundation Species in Forest Dynamics Plots of China 2004-2014

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  • Lead: Aaron Ellison, Xiujuan Qiao
  • Investigators: Min Cao, Zhanqing Hao, Mingxi Jiang, Guangze Jin, Xiankun Li, Yankun Liu, Xiangcheng Mi, Haibao Ren, Weiguo Sang, Yingnan Shao, Songyan Tian, Xihua Wang, Xugao Wang, Zhong Wang, Wusheng Xiang, Kun Xu, Yaozhan Xu, Wanhui Ye, Fuping Zeng, Jiaxin Zhang, Tianyang Zhou
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 2004
  • End date: 2014
  • Status: completed
  • Location: China
  • Latitude: 18 to 48
  • Longitude: 100 to 132
  • Elevation: 260 to 3282 meter
  • Taxa: Acer sp., Aporosa sp., Brassaiopsis glomerulata, Corlyus sp., Ficus sp., Fraxinus sp., Juglans sp., Orophea sp., Padus sp., Pinus sp., Prunus sp., Taxus sp., Tilia sp., Ulmus sp.
  • Release date: 2020
  • Revisions:
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.345.1
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: short-term measurement
  • Research topic: biodiversity studies; conservation and management; international research projects; large experiments and permanent plot studies
  • LTER core area: populations
  • Keywords: biodiversity, community composition, forest dynamics, permanent plots, species richness
  • Abstract:

    Foundation species structure forest communities and ecosystems but are difficult to identify without long-term observations or experiments. We used statistical criteria---outliers from size-frequency distributions and scale-dependent negative effects on alpha diversity and positive effects on beta diversity---to identify candidate foundation woody plant species in 12 large forest-dynamics plots spanning 26 degrees of latitude in China. We used these data to: [1] identify candidate foundation species in Chinese forests; [2] test the hypothesis---based on observations of a mid-latitude peak in functional trait diversity and high local species richness but few numerically dominant species in tropical forests---that foundation woody plant species are more frequent in temperate than tropical or boreal forests; and [3] compare these results with data from the Americas to suggest candidate foundation genera in Northern Hemisphere forests. Using the most stringent criteria, only two species of Acer, the canopy tree Acer ukurunduense and the shrubby treelet Acer barbinerve, were identified in temperate plots as candidate foundation species. Using more relaxed criteria, we identified four times more candidate foundation species in temperate plots (including species of Acer, Pinus, Juglans, Padus, Tilia, Fraxinus, Prunus, Taxus, Ulmus, and Corlyus) than in (sub)tropical plots (the shrubs or treelets Aporosa yunnanensis, Ficus hispida, Brassaiopsis glomerulata, and Orophea laui). Species diversity of co-occurring woody species was negatively associated with basal area of candidate foundation species more frequently at 5- and 10-m spatial grains (scale) than at a 20-m grain. Conversely, Bray-Curtis dissimilarity was positively associated with basal area of candidate foundation species more frequently at 5-m than at 10- or 20-m grains. Using either stringent or relaxed criteria supported the hypothesis that foundation species are more common in mid-latitude temperate forests. Comparisons of candidate foundation species in Chinese and North American forests suggest that Acer be investigated further as a foundation tree genus.

  • Methods:

    We used data from the first censuses of 12 of the 17 Chinese Forest Biodiversity network (CForBio) plots: the 9-ha broad-leaved Korean pine mixed forest plot at Liangshui in the Xiaoxing'an Mountains of Heilongjiang Province; the 25-ha Taxus cuspidata-dominated forest in the Muling Nature Reserve, also in Heilongjiang Province; the 25-ha deciduous broad-leaved Korean pine mixed forest plot on Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province; the 20-ha warm-temperate deciduous broad-leaved forest plot on Dongling Mountain in Beijing; the 25-ha subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest plot on Tiantong Mountain in Zhejiang Province; the 25-ha mid-subtropical mountain evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest plot on Badagong Mountain in Hunan province; the 24-ha subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest plot on Gutian Mountain in Zhejiang Province; 20-ha lower subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest plot on Dinghu Mountain in Guangdong Province; the 25-ha cold-temperate spruce-fir forest plot on Yulong Snow Mountain in Yunnan Province; the 25-ha karst evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest plot at Mulun in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; the 15-ha karst seasonal rain-forest plot at Nonggang, also in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; and the 20-ha tropical forest plot at Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province.

    Data were collected using standard ForestGEO procedures for large forest dynamics plots. Size-frequency distribution plots combined with outlier detection algorithms and importance-value statistics were used to identify candidate foundation species. The set of candidate species was then winnowed using diversity criteria outlined by Ellison et al. (2019; Forests 10: 128).

    Data table contains code for codispersion analysis and analysis of size-frequency distributions and outlier detection for 12 CForBio plots. Input data for all .R files is available on request from the ForestGEO network ( or the corresponding author (

  • Use:

    This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons license CC BY (Attribution). Please keep the designated contact person informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation or collaboration with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset must include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation:

    Ellison A, Qiao X. 2020. Foundation Species in Forest Dynamics Plots of China 2004-2014. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF345.

Detailed Metadata

hf345-01: analysis code

  • Compression: zip
  • Format: R code
  • Type: R code