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  1. Abstract Decades of theory and empirical studies have demonstrated links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, yet the putative processes that underlie these patterns remain elusive. This is especially true for forest ecosystems, where the functional traits of plant species are challenging to quantify. We analyzed 74,563 forest inventory plots that span 35 ecoregions in the contiguous USA and found that in ~77% of the ecoregions mixed mycorrhizal plots were more productive than plots where either arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal fungal-associated tree species were dominant. Moreover, the positive effects of mixing mycorrhizal strategies on forest productivity were more pronounced at low than high tree species richness. We conclude that at low richness different mycorrhizal strategies may allow tree species to partition nutrient uptake and thus can increase community productivity, whereas at high richness other dimensions of functional diversity can enhance resource partitioning and community productivity. Our findings highlight the importance of mixed mycorrhizal strategies, in addition to that of taxonomic diversity in general, for maintaining ecosystem functioning in forests. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. 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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  3. The physical structure of vegetation is thought to be closely related to ecosystem function, but little is known of its pertinence across geographic regions. Here, we used data from over three million trees in continental North America to evaluate structural diversity – the volumetric capacity and physical arrangement of biotic components in ecosystems – as a predictor of productivity. We show that structural diversity is a robust predictor of forest productivity and consistently outperforms the traditional measure – species diversity – across climate conditions in North America. Moreover, structural diversity appears to be a better surrogate of niche occupancy because it captures variation in size that can be used to measure realized niche space. Structural diversity offers an easily measured metric to direct restoration and management decision making to maximize ecosystem productivity and carbon sequestration. 
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  4. Sabatini, Francesco Maria (Ed.)
  5. 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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  6. Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula (White) (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae), is a non-native planthopper that recently established in the Northeastern United States. Little is known about the spatial dynamics of its invasion and key drivers associated with its regional spread. Here, using field survey data from a total of 241,366 survey locations from 2014–2019 in the eastern USA, we quantified rates of SLF spread and modeled factors associated with the risk of SLF invasion. During the study period, SLF invasion appears to be associated with both short- and long-distance dispersal. On average, the number of newly invaded counties per year increased since initial discovery, with 0–14 long-distance dispersal events per year and median jump distances ranging from 55 to 92 km/year throughout the study period. Radial rates of spread, based on two of the three analysis methods applied, varied from 38.6 to 46.2 km/year. A Cox proportional hazards model suggested that risk of SLF invasion increased with a proxy for human-aided dispersal, human population per county. We anticipate that SLF will continue to spread via both long- and short-distance dispersals, especially via human activities. Efforts to manage SLF populations potentially could target human-mediated movement of SLF to reduce rates of spread. 
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  7. Abstract

    Efforts to catalog global biodiversity have often focused on aboveground taxonomic diversity, with limited consideration of belowground communities. However, diversity aboveground may influence the diversity of belowground communities and vice versa. In addition to taxonomic diversity, the structural diversity of plant communities may be related to the diversity of soil bacterial and fungal communities, which drive important ecosystem processes but are difficult to characterize across broad spatial scales. In forests, canopy structural diversity may influence soil microorganisms through its effects on ecosystem productivity and root architecture, and via associations between canopy structure, stand age, and species richness. Given that structural diversity is one of the few types of diversity that can be readily measured remotely (e.g., using light detection and ranging—LiDAR), establishing links between structural and microbial diversity could facilitate the detection of belowground biodiversity hotspots. We investigated the potential for using remotely sensed information about forest structural diversity as a predictor of soil microbial community richness and composition. We calculated LiDAR‐derived metrics of structural diversity as well as a suite of stand and soil properties from 38 forested plots across the central hardwoods region of Indiana, USA, to test whether forest canopy structure is linked with the community richness and diversity of four key soil microbial groups: bacteria, fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, and ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi. We found that the density of canopy vegetation is positively associated with the taxonomic richness (alpha diversity) of EM fungi, independent of changes in plant taxonomic richness. Further, structural diversity metrics were significantly correlated with the overall community composition of bacteria, EM, and total fungal communities. However, soil properties were the strongest predictors of variation in the taxonomic richness and community composition of microbial communities in comparison with structural diversity and tree species diversity. As remote sensing tools and algorithms are rapidly advancing, these results may have important implications for the use of remote sensing of vegetation structural diversity for management and restoration practices aimed at preserving belowground biodiversity.

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  8. Major efforts are underway to harness the carbon sequestration capacity of forests to combat global climate change. However, tree damage and death associated with insect and disease disturbance can reduce this carbon sequestration capacity. We quantified average annual changes in live tree carbon accumulation associated with insect and disease disturbances utilizing the most recent (2001 – 2019) remeasurement data from National Forest Inventory plots in the contiguous United States. Forest plots recently impacted by insect disturbance sequestered on average 69% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance, and plots recently impacted by disease disturbance sequestered on average 28% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance. Nationally, we estimate that carbon sequestration by live trees, defined as the estimated average annual rate of above- and belowground carbon accumulation in live trees (diameter at breast height ≥ 2.54 cm) on forest land, has been reduced by 9.33 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 7.11 to 11.58) in forests that have experienced recent insect disturbance and 3.49 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 1.30 to 5.70) in forests that have experienced recent disease disturbance, for a total reduction of 12.83 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 8.41 to 17.28). Strengthened international trade policies and phytosanitary standards as well as improved forest management have the potential to protect forests and their natural capacity to contribute to climate change mitigation. 
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