The functional role of temperate forest understorey vegetation in a changing world

Dries Landuyt, Emiel De Lombaerde, Michael P. Perring, Lionel R. Hertzog, Evy Ampoorter, Sybryn L. Maes, Pieter De Frenne, Shiyu Ma, Willem Proesmans, Haben Blondeel, Bram K. Sercu, Bin Wang, Safaa Wasof, Kris Verheyen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Temperate forests cover 16% of the global forest area. Within these forests, the understorey is an important biodiversity reservoir that can influence ecosystem processes and functions in multiple ways. However, we still lack a thorough understanding of the relative importance of the understorey for temperate forest functioning. As a result, understoreys are often ignored during assessments of forest functioning and changes thereof under global change. We here compiled studies that quantify the relative importance of the understorey for temperate forest functioning, focussing on litter production, nutrient cycling, evapotranspiration, tree regeneration, pollination and pathogen dynamics. We describe the mechanisms driving understorey functioning and develop a conceptual framework synthesizing possible effects of multiple global change drivers on understorey-mediated forest ecosystem functioning. Our review illustrates that the understorey's contribution to temperate forest functioning is significant but varies depending on the ecosystem function and the environmental context, and more importantly, the characteristics of the overstorey. To predict changes in understorey functioning and its relative importance for temperate forest functioning under global change, we argue that a simultaneous investigation of both overstorey and understorey functional responses to global change will be crucial. Our review shows that such studies are still very scarce, only available for a limited set of ecosystem functions and limited to quantification, providing little data to forecast functional responses to global change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3625-3641
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume25
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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Landuyt, D., De Lombaerde, E., Perring, M. P., Hertzog, L. R., Ampoorter, E., Maes, S. L., ... Verheyen, K. (2019). The functional role of temperate forest understorey vegetation in a changing world. Global Change Biology, 25(11), 3625-3641. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14756