Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Vegetation Structural Complexity and Biodiversity Across Elevation Gradients in the Great Smoky Mountains

Version 1 : Received: 22 April 2020 / Approved: 23 April 2020 / Online: 23 April 2020 (14:59:15 CEST)

How to cite: Walter, J.; Stovall, A.; Atkins, J. Vegetation Structural Complexity and Biodiversity Across Elevation Gradients in the Great Smoky Mountains. Preprints 2020, 2020040415 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0415.v1). Walter, J.; Stovall, A.; Atkins, J. Vegetation Structural Complexity and Biodiversity Across Elevation Gradients in the Great Smoky Mountains. Preprints 2020, 2020040415 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0415.v1).

Abstract

Questions: Elevation, biodiversity, and forest structure are commonly correlated, but their relationships near the positive extremes of biodiversity and elevation are unclear. We asked 1) How does forest structure vary with elevation in a high biodiversity, high topographic complexity region? 2) Does forest structure predict vascular plant biodiversity? 3) Is plant biodiversity more strongly related to elevation or to forest structure? Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USAMethods: We used terrestrial LiDAR scanning (TLS) to characterize vegetation structure in 12 forest plots. We combined two new canopy structural complexity metrics with traditional TLS-derived forest structural metrics and vascular plant biodiversity data to investigate correlations among forest structure metrics, biodiversity, and elevation. Results: Forest structure varied widely across plots spanning the elevational range of GRSM. Our new measures of canopy density (Depth) and structural complexity (σDepth) were sensitive to structural variations and effectively summarized horizontal and vertical dimensions of structural complexity. Vascular plant biodiversity was negatively correlated with elevation, and more strongly positively correlated with vegetation structure variables. Conclusions: The strong correlations we observed between canopy structural complexity and biodiversity suggest that structural complexity metrics could be used to assay plant biodiversity over large areas in concert with airborne and spaceborne platforms.

Supplementary and Associated Material

https://github.com/atkinsjeff/grsm_tls: Data and Markdown for GRSM TLS project (2019-2020) Walter, Stovall, and Atkins

Subject Areas

LiDAR: structural complexity; species richness; topography

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