Which factors influence the occurrence and density of tree microhabitats in Mediterranean oak forests ? Forest Ecology and Management 295: 118-125

Managed forests have the potential to promote tree microhabitats and hence to conserve the biodiversity, especially of birds, bats, and saproxylic insects, associated with such features. Although the value of tree
microhabitats for biodiversity has been described, surprisingly, the factors that explain the occurrence and density of tree microhabitats in managed forests remain poorly known, especially in Mediterranean
forests. To address this gap, we studied the occurrence and density of nine types of tree microhabitats inventoried in 1630 trees and 59 forest stands: canopy dead wood; woodpecker cavities; non-woodpecker
cavities (with a distinction between lower, medium, and upper cavities); Cerambyx cavities; loose barks or cracks; conks of fungi; and ivy. Each tree was described according to the presence/absence of microhabitats
as well as tree diameter, vitality, and species. In each stand, structural variables (basal area, stem density, log volume, stand height, diameter class distribution) and the time since last cutting (i.e., the number of
years since the last cutting) were assessed.At the tree level, large-diameter trees, snags, and non-coniferous species supported a higher richness of microhabitats than trees of small diameter, living trees, and conifers.
Holm oak (Quercus ilex L.),which is a typical species of Mediterranean forests, exhibited a particularly high ability to host microhabitats. Tree diameter was the best predictor of the occurrence of most microhabitats
(7 out of 9). We studied co-occurrences among microhabitats, but our results indicated that microhabitat types served poorly as proxies of other microhabitats due to frequent but unspecific positive relationships.
At the stand level, time since last cutting was the best predictor of density of microhabitat-bearing trees and the occurrence of most tree microhabitats. The density of microhabitat-bearing trees was approximately 13
times higher in older stands (>90 years post-cutting) than in recently cut stands (<30 years). To maintain biodiversity in forests,wesuggest that managers conserve large trees and snags and preferentially use holm
oaks for wood production. Silvicultural practices should include a long rotation period and favor harvesting by group selection to maintain forest stands with a time since last cutting >90 years.

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