Response of saproxylic beetles to small-scale habitat connectivity depends on trophic levels

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Context: According to the trophic-rank hypothesis, species may be differentially affected by habitat isolation due to their trophic position in the food chain, i.e. high-order trophic levels may be more negatively affected than low-order levels. Objectives: The aim of this paper is to study how species richness, abundance and composition of saproxylic beetle communities are affected by patch (=tree) quality and small-scale patch connectivity. Following the trophic-rank hypothesis, we expected predators to be more negatively affected by patch isolation than wood-feeding beetles. Methods: We studied the beetle community, patch connectivity and patch quality on 28 large oaks. Different connectivity measures were calculated using 50 m-buffers around trees and using distances to the five nearest trees. Results: Beetle species richness increased with the diameter of oaks, i.e. patch quality. No evidence of the trophic-rank hypothesis was found for species richness patterns. In accordance with the trophic-rank hypothesis, abundance of predatory beetles increased with patch connectivity but lower trophic levels were unaffected or even decreased with patch connectivity. Conclusions: The structure of invertebrate communities on trees changes with small-scale patch connectivity due to a differential response of low-order and high-order trophic levels. Isolated trees are more exposed to the sun than the more connected trees, which may affect the beetles; however, it was impossible to distinguish the microclimatic from the spatial effects. Although scattered trees generally have a higher conservation value than trees in forests, we conclude that forest trees may be more important for certain trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)939-949
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2016