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Creators/Authors contains: "Elliott, Jessica M."

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  1. Abstract

    Invasive forest pests can affect the composition and physical structure of forest canopies that may facilitate invasion by non‐native plants. However, it remains unclear whether this process is generalizable across invasive plant species at broad spatial scales, and how other landscape characteristics may simultaneously facilitate non‐native plant invasion. Here, we assembled a dataset of over 3000 repeatedly measured forest plots and quantified the impact of emerald ash borer (EAB,Agrilus planipennis) residence time, land cover, and forest structure on the accumulation and coverage of invasive plants. We show plots in counties with longer EAB residences tended to accumulate more invasive plants than plots with shorter EAB residences. On average, nearly half of the plots with ash (Fraxinusspp.) in counties with EAB accumulated an additional 0.48 invasive plant species over the 5‐ to 6‐year resample interval compared to plots with ash in counties without EAB at the time of sampling. Increases in invasive species coverage were also evident in counties with EAB—although residence time did not have a strong effect, while forest gap fraction and vertical complexity were each negatively associated with increased coverage. This work has implications for understanding how invasive forest pests can facilitate the spread of non‐native plants.

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  2. The three‐dimensional (3D) physical aspects of ecosystems are intrinsically linked to ecological processes. Here, we describe structural diversity as the volumetric capacity, physical arrangement, and identity/traits of biotic components in an ecosystem. Despite being recognized in earlier ecological studies, structural diversity has been largely overlooked due to an absence of not only a theoretical foundation but also effective measurement tools. We present a framework for conceptualizing structural diversity and suggest how to facilitate its broader incorporation into ecological theory and practice. We also discuss how the interplay of genetic and environmental factors underpin structural diversity, allowing for a potentially unique synthetic approach to explain ecosystem function. A practical approach is then proposed in which scientists can test the ecological role of structural diversity at biotic–environmental interfaces, along with examples of structural diversity research and future directions for integrating structural diversity into ecological theory and management across scales. 
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  3. Abstract

    Biodiversity is believed to be closely related to ecosystem functions. However, the ability of existing biodiversity measures, such as species richness and phylogenetic diversity, to predict ecosystem functions remains elusive. Here, we propose a new vector of diversity metrics, structural diversity, which directly incorporates niche space in measuring ecosystem structure. We hypothesize that structural diversity will provide better predictive ability of key ecosystem functions than traditional biodiversity measures. Using the new lidar-derived canopy structural diversity metrics on 19 National Ecological Observation Network forested sites across the USA, we show that structural diversity is a better predictor of key ecosystem functions, such as productivity, energy, and nutrient dynamics than existing biodiversity measures (i.e. species richness and phylogenetic diversity). Similar to existing biodiversity measures, we found that the relationships between structural diversity and ecosystem functions are sensitive to environmental context. Our study indicates that structural diversity may be as good or a better predictor of ecosystem functions than species richness and phylogenetic diversity.

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