LaManna, J.A.; Jones, F.A.; Bell, D.M.; Pabst, R.J.; Shaw, D.C. 2022. Tree species diversity increases with conspecific negative density dependence across an elevation gradient. Ecology Letters. 00: 1–13. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13996
Elevational and latitudinal gradients in species diversity may be mediated by biotic interactions that cause density-dependent effects of conspecifics on survival or growth to differ from effects of heterospecifics (i.e. conspecific density dependence), but limited evidence exists to support this. We tested the hypothesis that conspecific density dependence varies with elevation using over 40 years of data on tree survival and growth from 23 old-growth temperate forest stands across a 1,000-m elevation gradient. We found that conspecific-density-dependent effects on survival of small-to-intermediate-sized focal trees were negative in lower elevation, higher diversity forest stands typically characterised by warmer temperatures and greater relative humidity. Conspecific-density-dependent effects on survival were less negative in higher elevation stands and ridges than in lower elevation stands and valley bottoms for small-to-intermediate-sized trees, but were neutral for larger trees across elevations. Conspecific-density-dependent effects on growth were negative across all tree size classes and elevations. These findings reveal fundamental differences in biotic interactions that may contribute to relationships between species diversity, elevation and climate.