Sardinilla (Panama)

The Sardinilla biodiversity experiment is one of the oldest experiments in TreeDivNet. The goal is to study complex links between biodiversity, land use and tropical ecosystem functioning, with a focus on biogeochemistry and plant health. Sardinilla consists of two subexperiments: the 'main' plantation (established in 2001) and the 'high diversity' one (established in 2003).

one of the plots in the main plantation in 2002

main plantation
The 6 native tree species planted are of local economic and ecological value. They were chosen based on their relative growth rates: from fast-growing to more slowly growing long-lived pioneer species. The plantation consists of 12 monocultures (2 for all 6 species), 6 plots of different 3-species mixtures (1 species of the 3 growth rate categories), and 6 replicates of the 6-species mixture. Diversity treatments were randomly distributed to plots to reduce bias caused by differences in soil conditions.
Within a plot, planting followed a multiple Latin-square design to ensure that systematic environmental variation did not bias the results. The seedlings were planted in diagonal rows, with 3 m planting distance. The species identity of neighbours around trees of a given species thus remained the same within a plot. The planting density was similar to standard reforestation practices in Central America, which allows comparing with other plantations

high-diversity plantation
The 8 plots follow a split-plot design with 3 diversity levels (6, 9 and 18 species) per plot. The highest species number is comparable to the tree species diversity in intact natural forests (19 species) and was chosen based on the estimated tree species diversity of 45 m x 45 m plots in the nearby lowland tropical moist forest of Barro Colorado Island. The diversity levels are nested within 4 different species composition lines, which makes it possible to test the effect of species composition, accumulation, and diversity on ecosystem functioning. The regular design within the plots also allows for an explicit test of neighbourhood effects.

The 24 plots of the main plantation (1, 3, 6 species)
and the 8 plots of the high-diversity plantation (6, 9, 18 species)

Site characteristics

subexperiment main plantation high-diversity plantation
location Sardinilla
former land use original forest logged in 1952-53, 2 years of agriculture, then pasture
altitude 70 m
soil type clay Alfisol, bedrock of limestone and other sediments
area 9 ha
no of plots 24 8
plot size 45 m x 45 m 15 m x 45 m
no of trees planted 5566 864
planting date July 2001 July 2003
diversity variables species richness
identity functional group
species richness
species assemblage identity
diversity gradient 1, 3, 6 sp.
3 growth rates
6, 9, 18 sp.
4 assemblages
size species pool 6 26
species pool fast-growing: Cordia alliodora, Luehea seemannii
intermediate: Anacardium excelsum, Hura crepitans
slowly-growing: Cedrela odorata, Tabebuia rosea
Albizia adinocephala, Anacardium excelsum, Astronium graveolens, Bursera simaruba, Cordia alliodora, Calycophyllum candidissimum, Colubrina glandulosa, Cedrela odorata, Dipteryx panamensis, Dalbergia retusa, Diphysa robinioides, Enterolobium cyclocarpum, Erythrina fusca, Gliricidia sepium, Guazuma ulmifolia, Hura crepitans, Hymenaea courbaril, Inga punctate, Luehea seemannii, Ormosia macrocalyx, Pachira quinata, Pseudomanea saman, Spondias mombin, Terminalia Amazonia, Tabebuia rosea, Vochysia ferruginea
contact person Catherine Potvin

The experiment was specifically designed to test how increases in tree species richness affect the cycling and storage of carbon. The research goal is to study the complex links between biodiversity, land use and tropical ecosystem functioning, with a focus on biogeochemistry and plant health. The high-diversity plantation was specifically planted to answer the following questions: (1) Is the 6-species diversity treatment relevant to the natural level of tree diversity in the local forests? (2) What is the importance of community composition at high tree species diversity?
Studies focus on the influence of tree species diversity on plant productivity, biomass accumulation, carbon sequestration potential, and carbon cycling; biogeochemistry, e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics, and water cycling; element cycles and water use of individual trees; plant health and herbivory. As tree-to-tree interactions are highly important to understand diversity effects, the impact of neighbour trees is studied in detail.

Extra information
Send an e-mail to the contact person, visit the experiment's own website, or explore the publications:

  • Verheyen K, Vanhellemont M, Auge H, Baeten L, Baraloto C, Barsoum N, Bilodeau-Gauthier S, Bruelheide H, Castagneyrol B, Godbold D, Haase J, Hector A, Jactel H, Koricheva J, Loreau M, Mereu S, Messier C, Muys B, Nolet P, Paquette A, Parker J, Perring M, Ponette Q, Potvin C, Reich P, Smith A, Weih M, Scherer-Lorenzen M (2016) Contributions of a global network of tree diversity experiments to sustainable forest plantations. Ambio 45: 29-41 - doi: 10.1007/s13280-015-0685-1
  • Paine CET, Amissah L, Auge H, Baraloto C, Baruffol M, Bourland N, Bruelheide H, Daïnou K, de Gouvenain RC, Doucet J-L, Doust S, Fine PVA, Fortunel C, Haase J, Holl KD, Jactel H, Li X, Kitajima K, Koricheva J, Martínez-Garza C, Messier C, Paquette A, Philipson C, Piotto D, Poorter L, Posada JM, Potvin C, Rainio K, Russo SE, Ruiz-Jaen M, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Webb CO, Wright SJ, Zahawi RA, Hector A (2015) Globally, functional traits are weak predictors of juvenile tree growth, and we do not know why. Journal of Ecology 103: 978-989 - doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12401
  • Salisbury CL, Potvin C (2015) Does tree species composition affect productivity in a tropical planted forest? Biotropica 47: 559-568 - doi: 10.1111/btp.12252
  • Sapijanskas J, Paquette A, Potvin C, Kunert N, Loreau M (2014) Tropical tree diversity enhances light capture through crown plasticity and spatial and temporal niche differences. Ecology 95: 2479-2492 - doi: 10.1890/13-1366.1
  • Sapijanskas J, Potvin C, Loreau M (2013) Beyond shading: litter production by neighbors contributes to overyielding in tropical trees. Ecology 94: 941-952 - doi: 10.1890/12-0337.1
  • Sprenger M, Oelmann Y, Weihermüller L, Wolf S, Wilcke W, Potvin C (2013) Tree species and diversity effects on soil water seepage in a tropical plantation Forest Ecology and Management 309: 76-86 - doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2013.03.022
  • Yamamura T, Schwendenmann L, Lear G (2013) Tree species identity has little impact on the structure of soil bacterial communities in a 10-year-old tropical tree plantation. Biology and Fertility of Soils 49: 819-828 - doi: 10.1007/s00374-013-0774-x
  • Kunert N, Schwendenmann L, Potvin C, Hölscher D (2012) Tree diversity enhances tree transpiration in a Panamanian forest plantation. Journal of Applied Ecology 49: 135-144 - doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02065.x
  • Plath M, Mody K, Potvin C, Dorn S (2011) Establishment of native tropical timber trees in monoculture and mixed-species plantations: Small-scale effects on tree performance and insect herbivory. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 741-750 - doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.12.004
  • Potvin C, Mancilla L, Buchmann N, Monteza J, Moore T, Murphy M, Oelmann Y, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Turner BL, Wilcke W, Zeugin F, Wolf S (2011) An ecosystem approach to biodiversity effects: carbon pools in a tropical tree plantation. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1614-1624 - doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.11.015
  • Ruiz-Jaen MC, Potvin C (2011) Can we predict carbon stocks in tropical ecosystems from tree diversity? Comparing species and functional diversity in a plantation and a natural forest. New Phytologist 189: 978-987 - doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03501.x
  • Wolf S, Eugster W, Potvin C, Buchmann N (2011) Strong seasonal variations in net ecosystem CO2 exchange of a tropical pasture and afforestation in Panama. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 151: 1139-1151 - doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2011.04.002
  • Wolf S, Eugster W, Potvin C, Turner BL, Buchmann N (2011) Carbon sequestration potential of tropical pasture compared with afforestation in Panama. Global Change Biology 17: 2763-2780 - doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02460.x
  • Oelmann Y, Potvin C, Mark T, Werther L, Tapernon S, Wilcke W (2010) Tree mixture effects on aboveground nutrient pools of trees in an experimental plantation in Panama. Plant and Soil 326: 199-212 - doi: 10.1007/s11104-009-9997-x
  • Zeugin F, Potvin C, Jansa J, Scherer-Lorenzen M (2010) Is tree diversity an important driver for phosphorus and nitrogen acquisition of a young tropical plantation? Forest Ecology and Management 260: 1424-1433 - doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.07.020
  • Potvin C, Dutilleul P (2009) Neighborhood effects and size-asymmetric competition in a tree plantation varying in diversity. Ecology 90: 321-327 - doi: 10.1890/08-0353.1
  • Delagrange S, Potvin C, Messier C, Coll L (2008) Linking multiple-level tree traits with biomass accumulation in native tree species used for reforestation in Panama. Trees - Structure and Function 22: 337-349 - doi: 10.1007/s00468-007-0189-0
  • Healy C, Gotelli NJ, Potvin C (2008) Partitioning the effects of biodiversity and environmental heterogeneity for productivity and mortality in a tropical tree plantation. Journal of Ecology 96: 903-913 - doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2008.01419.x
  • Murphy M, Balser T, Buchmann N, Hann V, Potvin C (2008) Linking tree biodiversity to belowground process in a young tropical plantation: impacts on soil CO2 flux. Forest Ecology and Management 255: 2577-2588 - doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2008.01.034
  • Potvin C, Gotelli NJ (2008) Biodiversity enhances individual performance but does not affect survivorship in tropical trees. Ecology Letters 11: 217-223 - doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01148.x
  • Scherer-Lorenzen M, Bonilla JL, Potvin C (2007) Tree species richness affects litter production and decomposition rates in a tropical biodiversity experiment. Oikos 116: 2108-2124 - doi: 10.1111/j.2007.0030-1299.16065.x
  • Potvin C, Whidden E, Moore T (2004) A case study of carbon pools under three different land-uses in Panama. Climatic Change 67: 291-307 - doi: 10.1007/s10584-004-0079-z