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Dispersal limitation of saproxylic insects in a managed forest? A population genetics approach

Schauer, Bastian, Bong, Jaqueline, Popp, Christian, Obermaier, Elisabeth, Feldhaar, Heike
Basic and applied ecology 2018 v.32 pp. 26-38
Coleoptera, Fagus, Syrphidae, emergence traps, forests, gene flow, habitats, insects, intensive forestry, microsatellite repeats, population structure, threatened species, tree cavities, trees, Germany
Dispersal is a key trait of species enabling gene flow among populations. For species persistence dispersal may therefore be crucial especially in a patchy or changing environment. Tree hollows are a patchy habitat as their number is locally limited and in addition to that, habitat quality of tree hollows differs. Both factors are important for colonization by saproxylic insects as species may be specialized on a particular age or quality of a tree hollow and may be dispersal-limited. Intensive forest management may further decrease the number of tree hollows and increase distances between them, if trees with hollows are removed. However, not much is known about the dispersal abilities of most saproxylic species, even though such knowledge could improve conservation efforts. To investigate the genetic population structure of saproxylic species, we collected saproxylic organisms with emergence traps from 40 hollows in beech trees in a managed forest in Germany (approximately 14×14km). We focused on three threatened species, one coleopteran and two dipteran (Anaspis ruficollis, Scraptiidae; Criorhina floccosa, Syrphidae; Xylomya maculata, Xylomyidae) emerging from our tree hollows. Microsatellite analysis was used to assess gene flow among tree hollows and population genetic structure. In contrast to other studies reporting limited dispersal in saproxylic insects, we found no indication for restricted gene flow in all three species investigated. However, we studied relatively abundant species and our study site may not have been large enough to detect genetic substructure. This study indicates that the amount and quality of a suitable habitat may at least in some cases be more limiting than the physical ability to disperse.