Spontaneous recovery of functional diversity and rarity of ground-living spiders shed light on the conservation importance of recent woodlands

Abstract

Secondary (or recent) woodlands, whose development is favoured by massive farmland abandonment, are increasingly seen as promising habitats that limit losses of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The importance of temporal forest continuity (i.e. the duration of an uninterrupted forest state) for conservation of the forest fauna has been demonstrated for several taxa, but its influence on functional diversity and conservation importance of communities remains unclear. We studied how temporal continuity can shape taxonomic and functional composition and structure of forest-ground spider communities at a regional scale. According to broad-scale ecological site characteristics, species composition and—to a lesser extent—trait distribution substantially diverged between ancient and recent forest sites. Yet, we found hardly any significant differences in functional β-diversity, community structure, or conservation importance between the two forest categories. The only difference was for functional originality, which quantifies the average functional uniqueness of species within an assemblage: spiders’ communities of the ancient forests was more functionally original than those of the recent woodlands. Thus, in a conservation perspective, our study provides evidence that each forest harbours original species combinations, suggesting that each of them is irreplaceable, especially for ancient forests, which are functionally more original; however, recent woodlands have a high potential to spontaneously recover typical forest fauna communities with very similar structural and functional profiles to those of ancient forests.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the ‘Région Bretagne’, ‘Conseil départemental des Côtes d’Armor’, ‘Conseil départemental Finistère’, ‘Conseil départemental d’Ille et Vilaine’, ‘Conseil départemental du Morbihan’ and ‘Communauté de communes de Plouha-Lanvollon’ for technical and financial support. Moreover, we also would like to thank the military camp of St-Cyr-Coëtquidan and especially Alexandra Baudart and Sébastien Gautier (ONCFS) as well as Nicolas Le Deuff, Guy Le Reste (ONF) and David Rolland (FDC 22) for their help in acquiring data. We are also very grateful to the many colleagues and friends who helped in the preparation, analysis and treatment of data: Pierre Devogel, Maxime Hervé, Jean-Paul Lechapt, Margot Morin, Melaine Roullaud and Manon Simoneau, as well as the three anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of our manuscript and their many insightful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Loïs Morel.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Forest and plantation biodiversity.

Communicated by Andreas Schuldt.

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Morel, L., Dujol, B., Courtial, C. et al. Spontaneous recovery of functional diversity and rarity of ground-living spiders shed light on the conservation importance of recent woodlands. Biodivers Conserv 28, 687–709 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-01687-3

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Keywords

  • Arthropods
  • Farmland abandonment
  • Land use changes
  • Rewilding
  • Feral woodlands