iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


The nurse-plant effect under the dislodgement stress of landslides

Jian-Hong Yang (1-2), Li-Wan Chang (3), Kai-Chi Hsu (1), Chia-Cheng Fan (4), David Doley (5), Guo-Zhang Michael Song (1)   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 16, Issue 2, Pages 78-85 (2023)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor4017-015
Published: Mar 16, 2023 - Copyright © 2023 SISEF

Research Articles

While the mitigating effects of trees on shallow landslide occurrence are well recognised, the impact of landslides on tree community structure and tree-tree interactions have received much less research attention. The structures of tree communities before and after landslides were compared in a 25-ha subtropical forest plot. Tree-tree interactions were examined by analysing the pre- and post-landslide spatial point patterns of large (DBH ≥ 20 cm) and small (1 cm ≤ DBH < 20 cm) tree cohorts. In landslide scarps, 35 (34%) of 104 large trees and 467 (13%) of 3.072 small trees survived. Large (L) and small (S) tree cohorts were paired together for spatial analyses, including pre-landslide (PL) (LPL-SPL), surviving (S) (LS-SS), and missing (M) large-small tree paired cohorts (LM-SM). We randomly selected trees from the pre-landslide tree cohorts to create two virtual paired cohorts, the L34%-S13% and L66%-S87% paired cohorts, whose population sizes were identical to the field-observed LS-SS and LM-SM paired cohorts respectively, but with random spatial patterns. Post-landslide survival rates of trees increased monotonically with DBH. Large trees dislodged by landslides scarcely reduced small-tree survival. Evidence for this included: (i) the distance from small trees to the nearest large trees of the LM-SM paired cohort did not differ significantly from that of the virtual L66%-S87% paired cohort; (ii) survival rates of small trees near LM individuals did not differ significantly from those without large trees nearby. Surviving large trees had positive effects on the survival of small trees, indicated by: (i) the distance from small trees to the nearest large trees of the LS-SS paired cohort was significantly lower than that of the virtual L34%-S13% paired cohort; (ii) SS individuals clumped around LS individuals, whereas the virtual L34%-S13% spatial relationship was random. Large trees prevent landslide dislodgement of adjacent small trees through the nurse-plant effect. Our study suggests that landslide damage in sloping forests may be reduced simply by constantly maintaining a critical density of large trees.


Facilitation, Forest Dynamics Plot, Nurse-plant Effect, Point Pattern Analysis, Slope Stability

Authors’ address

Jian-Hong Yang
Kai-Chi Hsu
Guo-Zhang Michael Song 0000-0002-9266-3690
Department of Soil and Water Conservation, National Chung Hsing University, 145 Xingda Rd., South Dist., Taichung City 402 (Taiwan)
Jian-Hong Yang
Botanical Garden Division, Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, No.67 Sanyuan St., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100051 (Taiwan)
Li-Wan Chang
Forest Protection Division, Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, No.67 Sanyuan St., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100051 (Taiwan)
Chia-Cheng Fan
Department of Construction Engineering, National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, No.1, University Rd., Yanchao Dist., Kaohsiung City 824 (Taiwan)
David Doley 0000-0001-9430-6761
Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072 (Australia)

Corresponding author

Guo-Zhang Michael Song


Yang J-H, Chang L-W, Hsu K-C, Fan C-C, Doley D, Song G-ZM (2023). The nurse-plant effect under the dislodgement stress of landslides. iForest 16: 78-85. - doi: 10.3832/ifor4017-015

Academic Editor

Giorgio Vacchiano

Paper history

Received: Nov 11, 2021
Accepted: Dec 18, 2022

First online: Mar 16, 2023
Publication Date: Apr 30, 2023
Publication Time: 2.93 months

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