Saproxylic beetle assemblages related to silvicultural management intensity and stand structures in a beech forest in Southern Germany

  • Jörg Müller
  • Heinz Bußler
  • Thomas Kneib
Original Paper


Compared to agricultural land and spruce plantations, central European beech-oak forests are often relatively close to natural conditions. However, forest management may alter these conditions. In Steigerwald, southern Germany, a large beech-dominated forest area, three management intensities were applied during the past 30–70 years. Here, we examined the influence of management intensity on saproxylic beetles in >100-year old mature stands at 69 sampling plots in 2004. We sampled beetles using flight-window traps and time standard direct searches. The community structure based on presence/absence data changed remarkably along the gradient from unmanaged to low-intensity to high-intensity management, but these differences were not evident using abundance data from flight interception traps. Saproxylic species richness decreased in intensively managed forests. Elateridae and threatened species richness peaked in unmanaged forests and in forests under low-intensity management. Saproxylic species richness was dependent on certain micro-habitat factors. These factors were (1) the amount of dead wood for Elateridae, overall and threatened saproxylic beetle richness; (2) the amount of flowering plants for Cerambycidae; (3) the richness of wood-inhabiting fungi for Staphylinidae, Melandryidae and overall saproxylic beetle richness; and (4) the frequency of Fomes fomentarius for threatened species. Species richness was better explained by plot factors, such as dead wood or fungi, than by management intensity. These results suggest that the natural variation of dead wood niches (decay stages, snag sizes, tree cavities and wood-inhabiting fungi species) must be maintained to efficiently conserve the whole saproxylic beetle fauna of beech forests. Also, intensive management may alter the specialised saproxylic beetle community even if the initial tree-species composition is maintained, which was the case in our study. For monitoring the ecological sustainability of forest management we must focus on threatened species. If structures alone are sampled then the amount of dead wood is the best indicator for a rich saproxylic beetle fauna.


Management intensity Beech forests Species richness Saproxylic beetles 



We wish to thank Adrian Fowles for constructive comments on the manuscript and linguistic corrections. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The study was supported by the Bavarian State Institute for Forestry, Freising.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bavarian Forest NationalparkGrafenauGermany
  2. 2.Bayerische Landesanstalt für Wald und ForstwirtschaftFreisingGermany
  3. 3.Institut für StatistikLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunchenGermany

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