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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Specialists in ancient trees are more affected by climate than generalists

Gough, Leonie A; Sverdrup-Thygeson, Anne; Milberg, Per; Pilskog, Hanne E; Jansson, Nicklas; Jonsell, Mats; Birkemoe, Tone


Ancient trees are considered one of the most important habitats for biodiversity in Europe and North America. They support exceptional numbers of specialized species, including a range of rare and endangered wood-living insects. In this study, we use a dataset of 105 sites spanning a climatic gradient along the oak range of Norway and Sweden to investigate the importance of temperature and precipitation on beetle species richness in ancient, hollow oak trees. We expected that increased summer temperature would positively influence all wood-living beetle species whereas precipitation would be less important with a negligible or negative impact. Surprisingly, only oak-specialist beetles with a northern distribu- tion increased in species richness with temperature. Few specialist beetles and no generalist beetles responded to the rise of 4°C in summer as covered by our cli- matic gradient. The negative effect of precipitation affected more specialist species than did temperature, whereas the generalists remained unaffected. In summary, we suggest that increased summer temperature is likely to benefit a few specialist beetles within this dead wood community, but a larger number of specialists are likely to decline due to increased precipitation. In addition, generalist species will remain unaffected. To minimize adverse impacts of climate change on this impor- tant community, long-term management plans for ancient trees are important.


Beetles, climate gradient, coleoptera, precipitation, saproxylic, temperature

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2015, Volume: 5, number: 23, pages: 5632-5641

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Plant Protection Network

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Climate Research

    Publication identifier


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