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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Saproxylic biodiversity and decomposition rate decrease with small-scale isolation of tree hollows

Mestre, Laia; Jansson, Nicklas; Ranius, Thomas


Biodiversity is fundamental for ecosystem functioning, but little is known about how function responds to biodiversity loss following habitat disturbance in natural systems. Due to the global decay of veteran trees, many associated saproxylic (ie. deadwood-dependent) insects are considered threatened. Nevertheless, the role of habitat spatial configuration on saproxylic insect biodiversity and dead wood decomposition is poorly understood. We performed a six-year landscape-scale colonization experiment on saproxylic beetles inhabiting hollow oaks, using boxes filled with wood mould as standardized habitat patches. We placed boxes either on a hollow tree or on another tree 61-324 m from the hollows, thereby creating two habitat isolation levels. We quantified wood mould decay and biodiversity in the boxes, measuring species richness, total abundances and community-weighted mean of body mass (CWM) as an index of community functional composition. Isolation had a persistent negative effect on primary consumer biodiversity, but it only impaired decay at the beginning of the experiment. All effects were independent of landscape-level (500-m radius) habitat amount surrounding the boxes. Wood mould decay was mediated by CWM of primary consumers. Therefore function was driven by the body masses of the dominant primary consumer species but not by species numbers (richness) or individual numbers (abundance). Our experiment shows that small-scale habitat isolation leads to biodiversity loss and reduced function and indicates that habitats created by conservation efforts will be used by more saproxylic species if located within sites with a high density of veteran trees.


Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning; Coleoptera; Forests; Trophic rank hypothesis; Habitat amount hypothesis; Mass-ratio hypothesis

Published in

Biological Conservation
2018, Volume: 227, pages: 226-232

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

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

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