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Are biodiversity patterns of saproxylic beetles shaped by habitat limitation or dispersal limitation? A case study in unfragmented montane forests

Janssen, Philippe, Cateau, Eugénie, Fuhr, Marc, Nusillard, Benoit, Brustel, Hervé, Bouget, Christophe
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.6 pp. 1167-1185
Coleoptera, biogeography, case studies, dead wood, ecosystem management, environmental factors, extractors, habitats, landscapes, montane forests, species diversity, traps, trees
Understanding the processes that shape biodiversity patterns is essential for ecosystem management and conservation. Local environmental conditions are often good predictors of species distribution and variations in habitat quality usually positively correlate to species richness. However, beside habitat limitation, species presence-absence may be constrained by dispersal limitation. We tested the relative importance of both limitations on saproxylic beetle diversity, using forest continuity as a surrogate for dispersal limitation and stand maturity as a surrogate for habitat limitation. Forest continuity relies on the maintenance of a forest cover over time, while stand maturity results in the presence of old-growth habitat features. Forty montane beech-fir forests in the French pre-Alps were sampled, under a balanced sampling design in which forest continuity and stand maturity were crossed. A total of 307 saproxylic beetle species were captured using flight-interception traps and Winkler–Berlese extractors. We explored the response of low- versus high-dispersal species groups to forest continuity and stand maturity. Saproxylic beetle diversity increased significantly with stand maturity and was mostly influenced by variables related to deadwood diversity at the stand scale and suitable habitat availability at the landscape scale. Surprisingly, no evidence of dispersal limitation was found, as diversity patterns were not influenced by forest continuity and associated variables, even for low-dispersal species. Our study demonstrates that in an unfragmented forest landscape, saproxylic beetles are able to colonize recent forests, as long as local deadwood resources are sufficiently diversified (e.g. tree species, position, diameter and/or decay stage).