SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • below-ground processes;
  • biological invasion;
  • carbon sequestration;
  • ecosystem properties;
  • grassland;
  • nutrient cycling;
  • soil biota

Summary

1. Many grasslands worldwide are undergoing succession to woody vegetation, causing complex effects on carbon (C) sequestration, nutrient cycling and biodiversity. Land managers are frequently tasked with maximizing ecosystem services and biodiversity. Nonetheless, there are few studies quantifying trade-offs between ecosystem services and biodiversity during early woody succession.

2. We assessed the consequences of woody succession for C stocks, above- and below-ground taxa richness (plants, nematodes, mites, microbes, fungi), and soil ecosystem function at one site with a native tree, Kunzea ericoides, and one site with a non-native tree, Pinus nigra, both establishing in conservation grasslands.

3. Woody succession at both sites was associated with large gains in above-ground C stocks and, under P. nigra, losses from the mineral soil-C pool.

4. Taxa richness responses were complex, nonlinear and incongruent. While some taxa showed initial increases in richness with woody succession (e.g. plants), other taxa had rapid declines (e.g. plant-feeding and plant-associated nematodes, oribatid mites).

5. Below-ground ecosystem functioning shifted towards increased bacterial energy channels with woody succession, despite no change in bacterial or fungal biomass or fungal hyphal lengths. Most other soil measures were consistent with literature expectations (increased C:N ratios, release of recalcitrant phosphorus).

6.Synthesis and applications. Our gradient-based measurements of woody succession effects on ecosystems did not follow expectations based on comparing end-points of grasslands to homogeneous mature forest. The discordance of biodiversity responses across taxonomic groups suggests that managers cannot rely on the indicator-species concept to ensure conservation of cryptic biodiversity. Carbon sequestration and biodiversity followed non-congruent patterns, with significant losses of taxa richness from some functional groups during woody succession. Management to maximize individual ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration may therefore result in significant negative effects on biodiversity of some, but not all, taxa.