Relict of primeval forests in an intensively farmed landscape: what affects the survival of the hermit beetle (Osmoderma barnabita) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in pollard willows?



The hermit beetle (Osmoderma barnabita) is an internationally protected specialist of tree hollows considered a relic of primeval forests. The backbone of its distribution in eastern Czechia, however, is a system of pollard willows in intensively farmed lowlands. Pollarding, a traditional agroforestry practice inducing formation of tree hollows, was partly abandoned in the area during the twentieth century.


To assess the state of the system of pollard willows and to investigate parameters of pollards and their stands which affect the beetle’s presence.


We inventoried pollard trees and beetle distribution across ca 2000 km2 of lowlands along the Dyje, Morava and Odra rivers and their tributaries in eastern Czechia and westernmost Slovakia.


We found 10 441 pollard willows in 324 stands: most stands contained trees of large diameters and poor health; young trees were rare. Probability of O. barnabita presence increased with number of trees in stand, decreased with distance to the nearest occupied stand, and was further affected by the health state of trees.


Our results show that high hollow density in pollards allows for the existence of specialized, dispersal limited forest organisms in virtually deforested landscapes. They suggest stands should contain at least 200–300 pollard willows to sustain the beetle population. Although the beetle is still widespread over the study area, the existing populations are isolated and subjected to extinction debt.

Implications for insect conservation

Large-scale restoration of pollarding practice, planting and pollarding of numerous young trees, and increasing connectivity is vital to facilitate the survival of this hermit beetle population but also support other hollow associated organisms.

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The study and its authors were supported by the project “Živé břehy—společná ochrana říčních ekosystémů” funded by Interreg V-A SK–CZ (Project No. 304021D168), the Czech Science Foundation (Project No. 17-21082S), by the Institute of Entomology, BC CAS (RVO 60077344), and by the project LIFE 17 NAT/CZ/000463—LIFE Osmoderma 2017, co-financed by the European Union from the LIFE program and by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.

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Correspondence to Lukas Cizek.

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Fig. S1. Schematic images of tree characteristics. a) Tree health state: from 1 = pollard in a good state with a small or no visible hollow, to 4 = pollard in an advanced stage with disintegrated or collapsed trunk and little or no wood mold. b) Conditions of tree surroundings: from 1 = tree in open conditions, to 4 = tree in shady conditions, fully overgrown by other trees or shrubs (PNG 294 kb)

Fig. S2. Frequency histograms of variables used in generalized linear models at stand level: a) number of trees in stand, and b) distance to the nearest occupied stand (both on log-transformed scale used in generalized linear models); and tree characteristics per stand: c) mean tree health state, and d) mean conditions of surroundings (TIF 1938 kb)

Fig. S3. The effect of: a) distance to the nearest occupied tree, b) tree health state, and c) surroundings on occurrence probability of O. barnabita in a pollard willow predicted by final model at tree level (generalized linear model with binomial distribution (see model parameters in Table 3). The predictions displayed are based on mean values (TIF 1477 kb)

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Cizek, L., Hauck, D., Miklin, J. et al. Relict of primeval forests in an intensively farmed landscape: what affects the survival of the hermit beetle (Osmoderma barnabita) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in pollard willows?. J Insect Conserv (2021).

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  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Extinction debt
  • Saproxylic
  • Agroforestry
  • Patch size
  • Habitat connectivity