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Functional response of lignicolous fungal guilds to bark beetle deforestation

Bässler, Claus, Müller, Jörg, Cadotte, Marc W., Heibl, Christoph, Bradtka, Johannes H., Thorn, Simon, Halbwachs, Hans
Ecological indicators 2016 v.65 pp. 149-160
Ips typographus, Picea abies, bark beetles, coniferous forests, dead wood, deforestation, dieback, ectomycorrhizae, epiphytes, forest canopy, fruiting bodies, functional diversity, fungal communities, fungi, habitats, lichens, national parks, phylogeny, prediction, solar radiation, species diversity, Central European region
Conifer-dominated forests in the northern hemisphere are prone to large-scale natural disturbances, yet our understanding of their effects beyond changes in species diversity is limited. Bark beetle disturbances provide dead wood for lignicolous fungal guilds and increase insolation but also desiccation. We investigated whether species richness of these guilds increases and functional diversity decreases after bark beetle disturbance, which would promote through habitat filtering the coexistence of species adapted to harsh conditions, i.e. light stress for lichens and substrate desiccation for wood-inhabiting fungi.We sampled epixylic and epiphytic lichens (primary producers) and wood-inhabiting fungi (mainly wood decomposers, some form ectomycorrhizas) in the Bohemian Forest (Long Term Ecological Research – LTER – Site Bavarian Forest National Park), an area in Central Europe most heavily affected by the bark beetle Ips typographus, on undisturbed plots and disturbed plots with spruce (Picea abies) dieback 8 years ago. We analysed species diversity, functional diversity (optimized by phylogeny), and functional compositions.Species richness of lichens but not that of wood-inhabiting fungi was higher on disturbed plots than on undisturbed plots. Community compositions of both guilds differed considerably on disturbed and undisturbed plots. On both types of plots, lichen communities were clustered according to functional diversity, which indicated habitat filtering, and fungal communities were overdispersed, which indicated competition. Disturbance increased the strength of these two patterns only slightly and was significant only for fungi. Single-trait analysis revealed changes in the functional composition; on disturbed plots, lichenous species with larger and more complex growth forms and fungi with large, perennial fruit bodies were favoured. Although the forest canopy changed tremendously because of the bark beetle disturbance, the most important driver of lichen and fungal diversity and mean trait assemblages seemed to be the enrichment of dead wood. The changes in insolation and moisture did not act as habitat filters for either guild. This indicated that the assembly patterns of lichen and fungal communities in coniferous forests are not affected by stand-replacing disturbances in contrast to the predictions for other disturbance regimes.