Biodiversity response to forest structure and management: Comparing species richness, conservation relevant species and functional diversity as metrics in forest conservation

Aim: We investigated the consistency between richness and trait-based diversity metrics in capturing the e?ects of management-related habitat factors on biodiversity. The choice of biodiversity metrics can substantially a?ect the evaluation of conservation tools. However, the relative sensitivity of di?erent metrics is not well in-vestigated, especially in a multi-taxon framework. Location: European beech forests in Denmark. Methods: We studied 20 beech stands comprising four management types (from intensively managed to long unmanaged stands). We analyzed how management-related environmental variables were re?ected in the measure of: (i) species richness, (ii) number of conservation-relevant species (red-listed species and old-growth forest indicators) and (iii) functional diversity targeting ?ve organism groups with di?erent habitat require-ments, i.e. vascular plants, epiphytic lichens and bryophytes, saproxylic fungi and breeding birds. Results: Plain species richness at stand level was generally misleading, as it did not capture changes in the number of conservation relevant species with changes in management-related environmental variables. The interpretation of functional responses was most informative for the better known vascular plants, while re-sponses were more fragmented for the other organism groups. Overall, however, functional responses were consistent with a loss of specialization and progressive simpli?cation of species assemblages from long-un-managed to intensively managed stands. Conclusions: Our ?ndings suggest that the occurrence of conservation-relevant species is a sound and relevant metric for planning and evaluating conservation actions, especially for less studied organism groups (e.g., sa-proxylic fungi and epiphytes). The functional approach is promising, but presupposes the availability of data-bases of relevant traits.