, Volume 131, Issue 3, pp 773-786
Date: 06 Aug 2011

Impact of silviculture on dead wood and on the distribution and frequency of tree microhabitats in montane beech-fir forests of the Pyrenees

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In forest ecosystems, the level of biodiversity is strongly linked to dead wood and tree microhabitats. To evaluate the influence of current forest management on the availability of dead wood and on the abundance and distribution of microhabitats, we studied the volume and diversity of dead wood objects and the distribution and frequency of cavities, dendrothelms, cracks, bark losses and sporophores of saproxylic fungi in montane beech-fir stands. We compared stands unmanaged for 50 or 100 years with continuously managed stands. A total of 1,204 live trees and 460 dead wood objects were observed. Total dead wood volume, snag volume and microhabitat diversity were lower in the managed stands, but the total number of microhabitats per ha was not significantly different between managed and unmanaged stands. Cavities were always the most frequent microhabitat and cracks the least frequent. Dendrothelm and bark loss were favored by management. Beech (Fagus sylvatica) carried many more microhabitats than silver fir (Abies alba), especially cavities, dendrothelms and bark losses. Fir very scarcely formed dendrothelms. Secondary tree species played an important role by providing cracks and bark losses. The proportion of microhabitat-bearing trees increased dramatically above circumference thresholds of 225 cm for beech and 215 cm for fir. Firs with a circumference of less than 135 cm did not carry microhabitats. In order to conserve microhabitat-providing trees and to increase the volume of dead wood in managed stands, we recommend conserving trees that finish their natural cycle over 10–20% of the surface area.

Communicated by J. Müller.