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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Pioneer tree species accelerate restoration of tree-related microhabitats in 50-year-old reserves of Bialowieza Forest, Poland

Spinu, Andreea Petronela; Mysiak, Weronika; Bauhus, Juergen; Bielak, Kamil; Niklasson, Mats

Abstract

Retention of structural elements such as deadwood and habitat trees at the level of forest stands has been promoted to integrate biodiversity conservation into multiple-use forest management. The conservation value of habitat trees is largely determined by the presence, richness, and abundance of tree-related microhabitats (TreMs). Since TreMs are often lacking in intensively managed forests, an important question of forest conservation is how the abundance and richness of TreMs may be effectively restored. Here, we investigated whether the strict protection of forest through cessation of timber harvesting influenced TreM occurrence at tree and stand levels. For that purpose, we compared four managed and four set-aside stands (0.25 ha each) in the Bialowieza Forest, with identical origin following clear-cuts approximately 100 years ago. We found that the abundance and richness of TreMs on living trees were not significantly different between stands that were either conventionally managed or where active forest management ceased 52 years ago. Yet, our analysis of TreMs on tree species with contrasting life-history traits revealed that short-lived, fast-growing species (pioneers) developed TreMs quicker than longer-lived, slower-growing species. Hence, tree species such as Populus or Betula, which supply abundant and diverse TreMs, can play an important role in accelerating habitat restoration.

Keywords

biodiversity conservation; biodiversity indicator; closer-to-nature forest management; compartmentalization of decay; forest restoration; pioneer species

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2023, Volume: 13, number: 7, article number: e10238
Publisher: WILEY