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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Conservation value of low-productivity forests measured as the amount and diversity of dead wood and saproxylic beetles

Hamalainen, Aino; Strengbom, Joachim; Ranius, Thomas


In many managed landscapes, low-productivity land comprises most of the remaining relatively untouched areas, and is often over-represented within protected areas. The relationship between the productivity and conservational value of a site is poorly known; however, it has been hypothesized that biodiversity increases with productivity due to higher resource abundance or heterogeneity, and that the species communities of low-productivity land are a nested subset of communities from more productive land. We tested these hypotheses for dead-wood-dependent beetles by comparing their species richness and composition, as well as the amount and diversity of dead wood, between low-productivity (potential forest growth <1 m(3)center dot ha(-1)center dot yr(-1)) and high-productivity Scots pine-dominated stands in Sweden. We included four stand types: stands situated on (1) thin soils and (2) mires (both low-productivity), (3) managed stands, and (4) unmanaged stands set aside for conservation purposes (both high-productivity). Beetle species richness and number of red-listed species were highest in the high-productivity set-asides. Species richness was positively correlated with the volume and diversity of dead wood, but volume appeared to be a better predictor than diversity for the higher species richness in set-asides. Beetle species composition was similar among stand types, and the assemblages in low-productivity stands were largely subsets of those in high-productivity set-asides. However, 11% of all species and 40% of red-listed species only occurred in high-productivity stands, while no species were unique to low-productivity stands. We conclude that low-productivity forests are less valuable for conservation than high-productivity forest land. Given the generally similar species composition among stand types, a comparable conservational effect could be obtained by setting aside a larger area of low-productivity forest in comparison to the high-productivity. In terms of dead wood volumes, 1.8-3.6 ha of low-productivity forest has the same value as 1 ha of unmanaged high-productivity forest. This figure can be used to estimate the conservation value of low-productivity forests; however, as high-productivity forests harbored some unique species, they are not completely exchangeable.


dead wood; low-productivity forest; mire; Pinus sylvestris; productivity-diversity relationship; saproxylic

Published in

Ecological Applications
2018, Volume: 28, number: 4, pages: 1011-1019
Publisher: WILEY