Forests made up of diverse tree species are more resilient during extreme climatic conditions such as storms compared to monocultures, a new study has revealed.
Monocultures refers to the cultivation of a single species in a specific area. Although monocultures of fast-growing species such as pine, are valuable from an economic point of view, they are more susceptible to storm damage.
The study, by researchers at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), found that in Europe, the forests that are most resilient to storms are those with more diversity of tree species and dominated by slow-growing species with high wood density, like oaks, a press statement explains.
The findings also showed that tree diversity’s positive effect on storm resistance was more pronounced during extreme weather conditions, such as the hot-dry conditions of the Mediterranean region and the cold-wet conditions of northern Scandinavia. The study was published in the British Ecological Society journal, Functional Ecology.
For the study, the researchers used simulations to model how forests with different characteristics, such as tree species diversity, resist during storms. They collected data from 91,528 real-life forest plots in Europe. The simulated forests differed in climate conditions, ranging from Mediterranean to Boreal as well as in composition such as tree species diversity.
According to the researchers, the findings suggest that our “forest management practices promote diversity and slow growing tree species such as oak.”
Previous studies have shown varied benefits of tree diversity. For instance, a study, titled ‘Tree diversity increases decadal forest soil carbon and nitrogen accrual’, published in the journal Nature in April 2023, showed that tree diversity strengthens their productivity and potentially increases the storage of carbon and nitrogen in the soil, which helps in sustaining soil fertility and mitigating global climate change. The findings showed that tree diversity improved soil carbon storage by 30% to 32% and nitrogen storage by 42% to 50% on a decadal timescale.
These studies highlight the importance of improving tree diversity, which will not only improve soil health and its ability to accumulate carbon and nitrogen but also enhance trees’ resistance during weather conditions such as storms.