Winners and losers in the wilderness: response of biodiversity to the abandonment of ancient forest pastures
Large areas of formerly oak-dominated woodlands are currently managed for timber products, and if they are used in a conservation-oriented way, they are often abandoned and left to become wilderness. We focused on the situation when an oak woodland is still partly managed as an ancient game park and partly abandoned as a nature conservation amendment. We studied this effect using a multi-taxa approach with lichens, fungi and beetles and investigated their response to the changing patterns in canopy openness, dead wood distribution and host tree conditions. The study was done in the Hradec Králové region of the Czech Republic. We found that the maintenance of canopy openness, as determined by management, was the primary driver influencing species composition. Canopy closure led to homogenization of the beetle and lichen communities and the loss of species. Fungi were mainly driven by the amount of dead wood, and abandonment favored their species richness. The creation of a new wilderness was only profitable for fungi, and the maintenance of canopy openness was an important driver for most of the studied taxa (i.e., biodiversity maintenance). Canopy openness and the presence of veteran trees could be used as an indicator of a management history that helps conserve biodiversity. Appropriate conditions for all taxa studied could be fulfilled using wood pasturing or game keeping in combination with dead tree retention.
KeywordsCanopy openness Dead wood Veteran trees Epiphytic lichens Wood-inhabiting fungi Saproxylic beetles
We would like to thank Kristina Colloredo-Mansfeld and the foresters and game keepers (namely, Milan Vondřejc, Vladimír Jirka and Martin Baše) for access and consultations, and Petr Stloukal for support of the study in Mochov. Petr Boža, David Hauck, Libor Dvořák, Jiří Háva, Jaroslav Boháč, Josef Moravec, Karel Rébl, Josef Jelínek, Libor Šulák, Robert Stejskal, Zdeněk Švec and Zdeněk Znamenáček helped us a great deal in the identification of some beetle species. Two anonymous reviewers had valuable suggestions. This study was supported by the Grants NAZV KUS QJ1520197 and CIGA ČZU 20174307.
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