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Pine wilt disease is a severe threat to the native pine forests in East Asia. Understanding the natural regeneration of the forests disturbed by pine wilt disease is thus critical for the conservation of biodiversity in this realm. We studied the dynamics of composition and structure within different plant functional types (PFTs) in Masson pine forests affected by pine wilt disease (PWD). Based on plant traits, all species were assigned to four PFTs: evergreen woody species (PFT1), deciduous woody species (PFT2), herbs (PFT3), and ferns (PFT4). We analyzed the changes in these PFTs during the initial disturbance period and during post-disturbance regeneration. The species richness, abundance and basal area, as well as life-stage structure of the PFTs changed differently after pine wilt disease. The direction of plant community regeneration depended on the differential response of the PFTs. PFT1, which has a higher tolerance to disturbances, became dominant during the post-disturbance regeneration, and a young evergreen-broad-leaved forest developed quickly after PWD. Results also indicated that the impacts of PWD were dampened by the feedbacks between PFTs and the microclimate, in which PFT4 played an important ecological role. In conclusion, we propose management at the functional type level instead of at the population level as a promising approach in ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation.
Hu G, Xu X, Wang Y, Lu G, Feeley KJ, et al. (2012) Regeneration of Different Plant Functional Types in a Masson Pine Forest Following Pine Wilt Disease. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36432. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036432