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Dispersal ecology of deadwood organisms and connectivity conservation

Komonen, Atte, Müller, Jörg
Conservation biology 2018 v.32 no.3 pp. 535-545
dead wood, field experimentation, forest management, forests, fungi, genetic analysis, habitat fragmentation, habitats, insects, landscapes, loci, population structure, radio telemetry, Europe
Limited knowledge of dispersal for most organisms hampers effective connectivity conservation in fragmented landscapes. In forest ecosystems, deadwood‐dependent organisms (i.e., saproxylics) are negatively affected by forest management and degradation globally. We reviewed empirically established dispersal ecology of saproxylic insects and fungi. We focused on direct studies (e.g., mark‐recapture, radiotelemetry), field experiments, and population genetic analyses. We found 2 somewhat opposite results. Based on direct methods and experiments, dispersal is limited to within a few kilometers, whereas genetic studies showed little genetic structure over tens of kilometers, which indicates long‐distance dispersal. The extent of direct dispersal studies and field experiments was small and thus these studies could not have detected long‐distance dispersal. Particularly for fungi, more studies at management‐relevant scales (1–10 km) are needed. Genetic researchers used outdated markers, investigated few loci, and faced the inherent difficulties of inferring dispersal from genetic population structure. Although there were systematic and species‐specific differences in dispersal ability (fungi are better dispersers than insects), it seems that for both groups colonization and establishment, not dispersal per se, are limiting their occurrence at management‐relevant scales. Because most studies were on forest landscapes in Europe, particularly the boreal region, more data are needed from nonforested landscapes in which fragmentation effects are likely to be more pronounced. Given the potential for long‐distance dispersal and the logical necessity of habitat area being a more fundamental landscape attribute than the spatial arrangement of habitat patches (i.e., connectivity sensu strict), retaining high‐quality deadwood habitat is more important for saproxylic insects and fungi than explicit connectivity conservation in many cases.