Tree species richness promotes an early increase of stand structural complexity in young subtropical plantations

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



1. Forest structural complexity has been identified as an important driver for pro-moting simultaneously biodiversity across trophic levels and multiple ecosystem services. However, we still have a limited understanding of the processes that lead to structural complex stands and how they evolve over time.
2. Using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), we quantified a three-dimensional (3D) stand structural complexity index (SSCI) in an experimental plantation with a long gradi-ent of tree species richness (1–24 species). The plantation was established in 2009, and we made use of a multi-temporal TLS dataset recorded during 2012–2019.
3. We found a positive relationship between tree species richness and structural complexity. This relationship became stronger over time. Ten years after plant-ing, SSCI was on average two-fold higher in 16- and 24-species mixtures than in monocultures. Furthermore, we demonstrate that tree species richness promotes 3D stand structural complexity indirectly by fostering a high vertical heterogene-ity and thus greater spatial complementarity in canopy space.
4. Synthesis and applications. Our findings indicate that tree species richness plays a crucial role in promoting stand structural complexity in young plantations, and this role becomes more important already during early stand development. Thus, afforestation measures would benefit from planting multiple native tree species to initiate structurally complex stands.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2305 - 2314
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2021

External IDs

Scopus 85111638802
ORCID /0000-0001-7408-425X/work/146642926



  • BEF-China, biodiversity ecosystem functioning, restoration, stand structural complexity, terrestrial laser scanning, tree diversity, tree species mixture