Oaks retained in production spruce forests help maintain saproxylic beetle diversity in southern Scandinavian landscapes.
Maria Koch Widerberg, Thomas Rainius, Igor Drobyshev, Matts Lindbladh.
In Northern Europe, human activities have caused a substantial decrease in the number of old deciduous trees over the last two centuries, leading to a decline in species populations associated with this habitat. One way to mitigate this trend is to increase the abundance of mature and old deciduous trees in commercial forests, such as by tree retention at final harvest. We analysed the biodiversity value of retained mature oaks in the production forests of Norway spruce in southern Sweden, using oaks in pastures as reference. The forest oaks were grown in two different levels of shade. We analysed two categories of saproxylic (i.e. dead wood-dependent) beetles: those utilizing oaks (Group I) and those utilizing oak but not spruce (Group II, which was, therefore, a subcategory of Group I). We found that forest oaks sustained high beetle diversity, in particular, Group I beetles, which were significantly more abundant in forest oaks in heavily thinned patches, as compared with pasture oaks and oaks in moderately thinned patches. For both beetle groups, the composition differed between the forest oaks and pasture oaks, indicating that the forest oaks can be a complementary habitat to that of pasture oaks. There was a positive relationship between oak dead branch diameter and beetle biodiversity, but only for older oaks (?200?years old). We conclude that retaining oaks in production spruce forests can increase the diversity of oak-associated beetles at the landscape scale. Since many oak associated species depend on relatively high levels of insolation, management of retained oaks in production forests should include periodic removal of encroaching trees.