Biodiversity and ecosystem function are inter-related via several, sometimes non-linear pathways.
Understanding how biodiversity and ecosystem function relate is essential for making management decisions and predicting how function will be lost or retained as global change occurs.
I am studying the relationship between species, diversity and function at a large-scale forest diversity experiment. BiodiversiTREE is a forest diversity experiment at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. Planted in 2013, it covers 19 hectares and has more than 20,000 trees. The experiment includes 16 native species
I am combining a large tree growth dataset (yearly measurements of 500+ trees) with field surveys of leaf traits, manipulative field experiments (litterbags, described below) and herbivore feeding trials to better understand how tree species identity and functional diversity shape the community and ecosystem function of forests.
The litterbag experiment, started in Fall 2020, leverages the extensive tree trait data and looks at three key drivers of leaf litter decomposition: plot diversity, litter origin, and the role of invasive earthworms.
1. Plot diversity: will leaves decompose differently in monoculture plots compared to polyculture plots?
2. Litter origin: do leaves grown in plots with high species diversity decompose differently than conspecifics grown in monoculture?
3. Earthworms: by allowing earthworms (some of which are invasive) to access a subset of the leaf litter we can determine if they are preferentially feeding in these forest plots.
Collaborators: Karin Burghardt (UMD), John Parker (SERC), Jamie Pullen (SERC), Rachel King (SERC)