Biodiversity - Ecosystem Function 
Researches in Forests, Agroforests & 

Prof. Dr. Arshad Ali   

Environmental Sciences
AWKUM, Pakistan

Our Research Team


I am a full-time Professor of Forest Ecology and Management at College of Forestry, Nanjing Forestry University. My broad-scale research interests are in the area of forest or plant ecology, particularly related to multiple abiotic and biotic controls on ecosystem functions and processes. I am interested in to evaluate the underlying ecological mechanisms for explaining biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationship in a changing environment. Plant functional traits, demography, and trees' size variation across space and time, as well as across forest biomes, are the main characteristics of my research. Using the multivariate statistical modeling (such as structural equation modeling) approach, I evaluate the multivariate relationships amongst environmental factors, multiple metrics of biodiversity and species/functional composition, and ecosystem functioning particularly aboveground biomass, carbon storage, and productivity in natural (subtropical, tropical, and temperate) forests, agroforestry systems, rangelands, and alpine plant communities. Most of my previous studies have focused on the biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationship at both local and regional scales. Currently, I evaluate the macro-ecological mechanisms underpinning biodiversity – ecosystem functioning at global and/ or pantropical scales. Currently, I am also leading the Global Forest Diversity, Structure and Function (i.e. GlobalFDSF) research network.

我是南京林业大学林学院森林生态与管理专业的教授。我的研究领域为森林和植物生态学,特别是森林生态系统功能和过程的多种非生物和生物的控制机理。我的研究兴趣主要是森林生物多样性与生态系统功能之间的关系在环境变化背景下的潜在生态机制。过去几年中,我在植物功能性状、森林统计学特征、树木大小随时间和空间的变化、以及森林生物群落变化的潜在影响机制上做了大量工作。其中,代表性科研成果有,利用多元统计建模(如结构方程建模)的方法评估了不同地带上 (亚热带、热带和温带) 自然森林、农林复合系统、牧场和高山植物群落中环境因子、生物多样性和物种/功能组成之间的多元关系,以及阐述了地上生物量、碳储量、生产力和生态系统功能之间的关系。目前,除延续之前工作重点区域尺度上生物多样性和生态系统功能之间关系外,我正在全球和/或泛热带区域尺度评估支撑生物多样性和生态系统功能的宏观生态机制,其研究水平已处在全球森林多样性、结构和功能研究的前沿,是Global FDSF的发起者和领导人。

Ms. Wang Liqiu

MSc Forestry student

Forest diversity, structure and functioning in Chinese forests

Mr. Suswash Kunwar

MSc Forestry student

Mr. Viseuy Indavong

MSc Forestry student

Part-time Researchers/Students

Anvar Sanaei

Researcher (Part-time)

Maryam Kazempour Larsary

PhD student (co-advised)

Research Projects

2019- Startup funding of Nanjing Forestry University for High-level talent personnel

2019- Linking some environmental factors, plant diversity, stand structure, and aboveground biomass in temperate forests of west Guilan in Iran.

Iran National Science Foundation (INSF), Grant No: 97010593. (Key Member). Principal Investigator: Professor Hassan Pourbabaei (Natural Resource Faculty, Guilan University, Iran).

2018- Linking abiotic and biotic drivers of aboveground biomass productivity across forest strata in tropical forests of Hainan Island, Southern China. China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, Grant No: 2018M643117.. (Principal Investigator). School of Life Sciences, South China Normal University, Guangzhou. (Completed)

2018- Functional response of abundance distribution in forest tree species along a rainfall gradient in the sea-land transition area in eastern Zhejiang Province. National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grant No: 31770467. (Member).  Principal Investigator: Professor En-Rong Yan (School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai).

Research Collaborations

Dr. Zuo-Qiang Yuan (Associate Professor)

Professor Hai-Sheng Jiang

Dr. Eskil Mattsson (Lead Analyst / Researcher)

Dr. Anvar Sanaei (Researcher)

Professor En-Rong Yan

Professor Juha M. Alatalo

Dr. Xiao-Dong Yang (Associate Professor)

Dr. Pedro Manuel Villa (Assistant manager / Research coordinator)

Professor Mingshi Li

Professor Hassan Pourbabaei (A Research Ambassador of DAAD; German Academic  Exchange Service)

Main Research Findings

Big-sized trees overrule remaining trees' attributes and species richness as determinants of aboveground biomass in tropical forests (Ali et al. 2019. GCB)

Large-diameter, tall-stature and big-crown trees are the main stand structures of forests, generally contributing a large fraction of aboveground biomass, and hence, play an important role in climate change mitigation strategies. We show that the ‘big-sized trees effect’ overrides the effects of remaining trees attributes and species richness on aboveground biomass in tropical forests. This study also indicates that big-sized trees may be more susceptible to atmospheric drought. We argue that the effects of big-sized trees on species richness and aboveground biomass should be tested for better understanding of the ecological mechanisms underlying forest functioning.

Multiple abiotic and biotic pathways shape biomass demographic processes in temperate forests (Yuan et al. 2019. Ecology)

In recent years, a growing body of evidence has shown that diverse forest communities generally accumulate biomass more rapidly than species-poor ones. Yet whether these patterns arise as a result of faster growth and/or reduced mortality remains unclear, as does the extent to which other biotic and abiotic conditions contribute to shaping these relationships. By integrating the full spectrum of abiotic and biotic drivers of forest biomass dynamics, our study provides critical system-level insights needed to predict the possible consequences of regional changes in forest diversity, composition, structure and function in the context of global change.

The forest strata-dependent relationship between biodiversity and aboveground biomass within a subtropical forest (Ali & Yan, 2017. For Ecol Manage)

• Relationship between diversity and aboveground biomass depends on forest strata

• Overstorey biomass increases with species diversity and tree size variation

• Positive relationship between understorey diversity and biomass is not effective

• The big trees effect has reduced the strength of relationship at understorey strata

• Overstorey species diversity significantly promotes the understorey species diversity

What is the role of perennial plants in semi-steppe rangelands? Direct and indirect effects of perennial on annual plant species (Sanaei & Ali, 2019. Ecol Ind)

  • Species richness enhanced aboveground biomass across annual and perennial species
  • Perennial species richness promoted annual plants through resource heterogeneity
  • Perennial species biomass decreased annual species biomass due to resource acquisition
  • Disturbance intensity decreased perennial species but enhanced annual species

Abiotic and biotic drivers of aboveground biomass in semi-steppe rangelands (Sanaei et al. 2018. Sci Tot Envi)

• Aboveground biomass was driven by the niche complementarity and/or selection effects

• Biotic factors best predicted aboveground biomass across plant growth forms and at whole-community level

• Aboveground biomass increased with species richness and plant coverage

• The negative relationship between species evenness and aboveground biomass indicates few dominant species in whole-community

Forest stand structure and functioning: current knowledge and future challenges (Ali 2019. Ecol Ind)

• No ubiquitous relationship exists between forest stand structure and functioning.

• Stand structure often increases aboveground biomass through niche complementarity

• Stand structure has either negative, positive or non-significant effects on stand productivity

• Negative effect may be attributable to the asymmetric competition for light.

• Further multivariate studies are needed for forest stand structure and functioning.