The biodiversity benefit of native forests and mixed-species plantations over monoculture plantations

Xiaoyang Wang, Fangyuan Hua, Lin Wang, David S. Wilcove, Douglas W. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Aim: China's Grain for Green Program (GFGP) is the largest reforestation programme in the world and has been operating since 1999. The GFGP has promoted the establishment of tree plantations over the restoration of diverse native forests. In a previous study, we showed that native forests support a higher species richness and abundance of birds and bees than do GFGP plantations and that mixed-species GFGP plantations support a higher level of bird (but not bee) diversity than do any individual GFGP monocultures (although still below that of native forests). Here, we use metabarcoding of arthropod diversity to test the generality of these results. Location: Sichuan, China. Methods: We sampled arthropod communities using pan traps in the land cover types concerned under the GFGP. These land use types include croplands (the land cover being reforested under the GFGP), native forests (the reference ecosystem as the benchmark for the GFGP’s biodiversity effects) and the dominant GFGP reforestation outcomes: monoculture and mixed-species plantations. We used COI-amplicon sequencing (“metabarcoding”) of the arthropod samples to quantify and assess the arthropod community profiles associated with each land cover type. Results: Native forests support the highest overall levels of arthropod species diversity, followed by mixed-species plantations, followed by bamboo and other monocultures. Also, the arthropod community in native forests shares more species with mixed-species plantations than it does with any of the monocultures. Together, these results broadly corroborate our previous conclusions on birds and bees but show a higher arthropod biodiversity value of mixed-species plantations than previously indicated by bees alone. Main conclusion: In our previous study, we recommended that GFGP should prioritize the conservation and restoration of native forests. Also, where plantations are to be used, we recommended that the GFGP should promote mixed-species arrangements over monocultures. Both these recommendations should result in more effective protection of terrestrial biodiversity, which is an important objective of China's land-sustainability spending. The results of this study strengthen these recommendations because our policy prescriptions are now also based on a dataset that includes over 500 species-resolution taxa, ranging across the Arthropoda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1721-1735
Number of pages15
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Arthropoda
  • China
  • Grain for Green Program
  • biodiversity
  • forest management
  • metabarcoding
  • reforestation


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