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Divergent responses of flagship, keystone and resource-limited bio-indicators to forest structure

AuthorsSegura, Amalia; Castaño Santamaría, Javier; Laiolo, Paola ; Obeso, José Ramón
Forest structure
Issue Date24-Jul-2014
CitationEcological Research 29(5) :925–936 (2014)
AbstractBio-indicators are often proposed to set conservation priorities in forest habitat owing to the difficulties of determining forest intrinsic ecological value. Here, we tested the efficacy of a number of potential bird indicator groups in monitoring beech Fagus sylvatica forest status by analyzing their associations with the spatial and structural variables of forest vegetation that indicate key ecological patterns and processes. The density of cavity nesting birds, indicating the presence of limited forest resources (resource-limited indicators), was influenced by tree species diversity, vertical species mingling and diameter, parameters reflecting maturity, gap-dynamic processes, as well as resource and shelter availability. Heterogeneity in shrub species composition, another parameter depending on forest dynamics, was positively associated with the occurrence of Capercaillie, a “flagship” species for forest conservation. The presence of woodpeckers, a “keystone” group that provides shelter and foraging substrate to other organisms, was positively affected by the basal area of standing dead trees that is indirectly associated with natural nutrient availability. These findings suggest that single indicators fail to provide a complete assessment of forest status, and their use in monitoring or managing forest ecosystem need to be contextualized to specific ecological patterns. The combined use of several indicators, representing various taxa, functions and life histories, appears to be preferable, and is logistically feasible if these can be surveyed together. Several indicators would likely display a wider range of sensitivities to the modification of natural processes and permit more comprehensive tracking of forest dynamics than single flagship, keystone or resource-limited indicators.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11284-014-1179-5
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