In a parallel observational approach, a total of 27 Comparative Study Plots (CSPs) were set up in existing forests in an adjacent Gutianshan National Nature Reserve (Zhejiang Province) in 2008.

The selection of CSPs followed a comparative design, employing a stratification of successional age. The CSPs address the impact of successional age on ecosystem functioning, providing a basis for assessing the successional processes at work across tree species diversity in the Main Experiment. Since the Main Experiment was planted with saplings, the first years of the project will reflect the conditions of young successional stages with respect to microclimate, food web structure and nutrient fluxes and pools.

Gutianshan National Nature Reserve (S. Both)

Fig. 1: Gutianshan National Nature Reserve (S. Both)

These observational investigations of existing highly diverse species assemblages in the CSP will serve as a later reference for a comparison with the experimental results. For this reason, all subprojects of the Research Unit focused on the CSPs in the first three years of the project (2008-2011), and several analyses are ongoing.