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Experimental studies of dead-wood biodiversity — A review identifying global gaps in knowledge

Seibold, Sebastian, Bässler, Claus, Brandl, Roland, Gossner, Martin M., Thorn, Simon, Ulyshen, Michael D., Müller, Jörg
Biological conservation 2015 v.191 pp. 139-149
Diptera, Isoptera, biodiversity, boreal forests, dead wood, decayed wood, fungi, meta-analysis, natural resources conservation, tropics
The importance of dead wood for biodiversity is widely recognized but strategies for conservation exist only in some regions worldwide. Most strategies combine knowledge from observational and experimental studies but remain preliminary as many facets of the complex relationships are unstudied. In this first global review of 79 experimental studies addressing biodiversity patterns in dead wood, we identify major knowledge gaps and aim to foster collaboration among researchers by providing a map of previous and ongoing experiments. We show that research has focused primarily on temperate and boreal forests, where results have helped in developing evidence-based conservation strategies, whereas comparatively few such efforts have been made in subtropical or tropical zones. Most studies have been limited to early stages of wood decomposition and many diverse and functionally important saproxylic taxa, e.g., fungi, flies and termites, remain under-represented. Our meta-analysis confirms the benefits of dead-wood addition for biodiversity, particularly for saproxylic taxa, but shows that responses of non-saproxylic taxa are heterogeneous. Our analysis indicates that global conservation of organisms associated with dead wood would benefit most by prioritizing research in the tropics and other neglected regions, focusing on advanced stages of wood decomposition and assessing a wider range of taxa. By using existing experimental set-ups to study advanced decay stages and additional taxa, results could be obtained more quickly and with less effort compared to initiating new experiments.