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Spontaneous recovery of functional diversity and rarity of ground-living spiders shed light on the conservation importance of recent woodlands

Morel, Loïs, Dujol, Benoît, Courtial, Cyril, Vasseur, Manon, Leroy, Boris, Ysnel, Frédéric
Biodiversity and conservation 2019 v.28 no.3 pp. 687-709
Araneae, abandoned land, community structure, ecosystems, fauna, forests, functional diversity, habitats, land management, species diversity, woodlands
Secondary (or recent) woodlands, whose development is favoured by massive farmland abandonment, are increasingly seen as promising habitats that limit losses of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. The importance of temporal forest continuity (i.e. the duration of an uninterrupted forest state) for conservation of the forest fauna has been demonstrated for several taxa, but its influence on functional diversity and conservation importance of communities remains unclear. We studied how temporal continuity can shape taxonomic and functional composition and structure of forest-ground spider communities at a regional scale. According to broad-scale ecological site characteristics, species composition and—to a lesser extent—trait distribution substantially diverged between ancient and recent forest sites. Yet, we found hardly any significant differences in functional β-diversity, community structure, or conservation importance between the two forest categories. The only difference was for functional originality, which quantifies the average functional uniqueness of species within an assemblage: spiders’ communities of the ancient forests was more functionally original than those of the recent woodlands. Thus, in a conservation perspective, our study provides evidence that each forest harbours original species combinations, suggesting that each of them is irreplaceable, especially for ancient forests, which are functionally more original; however, recent woodlands have a high potential to spontaneously recover typical forest fauna communities with very similar structural and functional profiles to those of ancient forests.