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Research article2008Peer reviewed

An endangered longhorn beetle associated with old oaks and its possible role as an ecosystem engineer

Buse, J.; Ranius, T.; Assmann, T.


For more than 10 years, ecologists have been discussing the concept of ecosystem engineering (i.e., nontrophic interactions of an organism that alters the physical state of its environment and affects other species). In conservation biology, the functional role of species is of interest because persistence of some species may be necessary for maintaining an entire assemblage with many threatened species. The great capricorn (Cerambyx cerdo), an endangered beetle listed in the European Union's Habitats Directive, has suffered a dramatic decline in the number of populations and in population sizes in Central Europe over the last century. The damage caused by C. cerdo larvae on sound oak trees has considerable effects on the physiological characteristics of these trees. We investigated the impacts of these effects on the species richness and heterogeneity of the saproxylic beetle assemblage on oaks. We compared the catches made with flight interception traps on 10 oaks colonized and 10 oaks uncolonized by C. cerdo in a study area in Lower Saxony (Germany). Our results revealed a significantly more species-rich assemblage on the trees colonized by C. cerdo. Colonized trees also harbored more red-listed beetle species. Our results suggest that an endangered beetle species can alter its own habitat to create favorable habitat conditions for other threatened beetle species. Efforts to preserve C. cerdo therefore have a positive effect on an entire assemblage of insects, including other highly endangered species. On the basis of the impact C. cerdo seems to have on the saproxylic beetle assemblage, reintroductions might be considered in regions where the species has become extinct.


assemblage heterogeneity; dead wood; ecosystem engineers; Natura 2000; saproxylic beetles; species richness; threatened species

Published in

Conservation Biology
2008, Volume: 22, number: 2, pages: 329-337

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Forest Science

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