Tree Diversity Drives Forest Stand Resistance to Natural Disturbances

H. Jactel, J. Bauhus, J. Boberg, D. Bonal, B. Castagneyrol, B. Gardiner, J.R. Gonzalez-Olabarria, Julia Koricheva, N. Meurisse, E. Brockerhoff

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Purpose of review

Forests are frequently exposed to natural disturbances, which are likely to increase with global change, and may jeopardize the delivery of ecosystem services. Mixed-species forests have often been shown to be more productive than monocultures, but it is unclear whether this results from mixed stands being in part more resistant to various biotic and abiotic disturbance factors. This review investigates the relationships between tree diversity and stand resistance to natural disturbances and explores the ecological mechanisms behind the observed relationships.

Recent findings

Mixed forests appear to be more resistant than monocultures to small mammalian herbivores, soil-borne fungal diseases and specialized insect herbivores. Admixing broadleaves to conifers also increases the resistance to fire and windstorms when compared to pure conifer stands. However, mixed forests may be more affected by drought depending on the species in the mixture.


Overall, our findings suggest that mixed forests are more resistant to natural disturbances that are relatively small-scale and selective in their effect. However, benefits provided by mixtures are less evident for larger-scale disturbances. Higher tree diversity translates into increased resistance to disturbances as a result of ecological trait complementarity among species, reduction of fuel and food resources for herbivores, enhancement of diversion or disruption processes, and multi-trophic interactions such as predation or symbiosis.

To promote resistance, the selection of tree species with different functional characteristics appears more important than increasing only the number of species in the stand. Trees with different levels of susceptibility to different hazards should be intermixed in order to reduce the amount of exposed resources and to generate barriers against contagion.

However, more research is needed to further improve associational resistance in mixed forests, through a better understanding of the most relevant spatial and temporal scales of species interactions and to optimize the overall provision of ecosystem services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-243
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Forestry Reports
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

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