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A meta‐analysis of functional group responses to forest recovery outside of the tropics

Spake, Rebecca, Ezard, Thomas H. G., Martin, Philip A., Newton, Adrian C., Doncaster, C. Patrick
Conservation biology 2015 v.29 no.6 pp. 1695-1703
Coleoptera, deciduous forests, ecosystem services, ecosystems, epiphytes, forest plantations, forest restoration, forest stands, functional diversity, habitats, interspecific variation, landscapes, lichens, meta-analysis, mycorrhizal fungi, old-growth forests, planting, prediction, species diversity, temperate forests, tropics
Both active and passive forest restoration schemes are used in degraded landscapes across the world to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service provision. Restoration is increasingly also being implemented in biodiversity offset schemes as compensation for loss of natural habitat to anthropogenic development. This has raised concerns about the value of replacing old‐growth forest with plantations, motivating research on biodiversity recovery as forest stands age. Functional diversity is now advocated as a key metric for restoration success, yet it has received little analytical attention to date. We conducted a meta‐analysis of 90 studies that measured differences in species richness for functional groups of fungi, lichens, and beetles between old‐growth control and planted or secondary treatment forests in temperate, boreal, and Mediterranean regions. We identified functional‐group–specific relationships in the response of species richness to stand age after forest disturbance. Ectomycorrhizal fungi averaged 90 years for recovery to old‐growth values (between 45 years and unrecoverable at 95% prediction limits), and epiphytic lichens took 180 years to reach 90% of old‐growth values (between 140 years and never for recovery to old‐growth values at 95% prediction limits). Non‐saproxylic beetle richness, in contrast, decreased as stand age of broadleaved forests increased. The slow recovery by some functional groups essential to ecosystem functioning makes old‐growth forest an effectively irreplaceable biodiversity resource that should be exempt from biodiversity offsetting initiatives.