Can large unmanaged trees replace ancient pollarded trees as habitats for lichenized fungi, non-lichenized fungi and bryophytes?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBiodiversity and Conservation. 2017, 1-20. 10.1007/s10531-017-1482-x
Management of ancient trees constitutes a major dilemma in the conservation of associated biodiversity. While traditional methods are often advocated, such practices may incur considerable costs and their effects have rarely been scientifically evaluated. We compared the communities of lichenized fungi, non-lichenized fungi, and bryophytes among equal number of coarse previously pollarded and unmanaged trees (n = 340). On 400 Ulmus glabra and 280 Fraxinus excelsior trees at 62 sites in Norway, we found 209 lichenized fungi, 128 non-lichenized fungi, and 115 bryophytes. Pollarded trees were richer in microhabitats than unmanaged trees and had significantly higher richness of bryophytes (ash) and non-lichenized fungi (ash and elm), the latter increasing with the availability of dead wood, cavities and coarse bark structure in pollarded trees. Further, the average total number of red-listed species, and red-listed lichenized fungi separately, were significantly higher on pollarded versus unmanaged trees, with diversity related to trunk circumference, depth of bark fissures and number of cavities. Our results underline the importance of microhabitats associated with old trees, but we cannot establish with certainty the importance of pollarding per se. Since we did not find any negative effect of canopy cover for community diversity, we assume that old trees with rich epiphytic communities can develop without management intervention. The high share (37 out of 49) of red-listed species occurring on unmanaged trees, and the fact that 11 red-listed species were found exclusively on unmanaged trees, may further indicate that unmanaged trees can with time replace the ancient pollarded trees as habitats for rich cryptogamic communities.