Species-habitat associations change in a subtropical forest of China

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Abstract

Question:

Do tree and shrub species in an evergreen broadleaf forest show similar habitat associations across different life stages?

Location:

A 24-ha evergreen broadleaf forest plot in a heterogeneous landscape in Gutianshan National Nature Reserve, Zhejiang Province, Eastern China.

Methods:

Species having positive associations with four habitat types (low valley, low ridge, upper valley, and upper ridge) at three life stages (sapling, juvenile, and mature stages) were compared for 60 tree and shrub species using torus-translation tests.

Results:

A total of 117 significant positive associations with the four habitats were observed at the three life stages (43, 41, and 33 at the sapling, juvenile, and mature stages, respectively). For the 52 species significantly associated with habitats, only 16 were associated with the same habitat across all three stages. The majority of associated species at the juvenile stage (34 out of 40) were associated with the same habitat at their sapling stage, whereas half of species at the mature stage had consistent associations with the same habitat at their sapling stage. More species were associated with the upper ridge at the sapling and juvenile stages compared to the mature stage. Conversely, more species were associated with the low valley at the mature stage compared to the sapling and juvenile stages.

Conclusions:

Our results indicate that species ecological habitat associations can differ between developmental stages beyond 1 cm DBH, as most species habitat preferences were consistent from the sapling stage to the juvenile stage but changed at the mature stage.

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