Congruent patterns of functional diversity in saproxylic beetles and fungi across European beech forests

Aim: Beech forests comprise a globally unique temperate forest type in Europe. The dominance of beech in these forests developed during the ongoing post-glacial northward re-colonization, concurrently with intensified forest use by humans. We investigated how these two processes together with climate shaped the patterns of functional diversity of two major species groups involved in wood decomposition and whether functional diversity is determined on the local or regional species pool level. Location: European beech forest distribution range. Taxon: Saproxylic beetles and fungi. Methods: We analysed records of 532,496 saproxylic beetles of 788 species and 8,630 records of 234 saproxylic fungal species based on sets of traits similar to both groups. We tested how space, climate and landscape composition affect trait-based functional diversity on local and regional scales. Using structural equation modelling, we tested whether functional diversity is shaped on the local or regional scale. Results: The response of local functional diversity of both saproxylic beetles and fungi followed a highly congruent pattern of decreasing functional diversity towards the north, with higher elevation and accounted for overall geographical gradients with higher temperature, while increasing with higher precipitation. Structural equation modelling revealed that local functional diversity is determined by community changes operating on the level of the regional species pool. Main conclusions: Our findings suggest that the functional diversity patterns of saproxylic organisms in European beech forests are mainly determined on the regional scale and driven by anthropogenic and biogeographical processes. To conserve the variation and hotspots of functional diversity in beech forests, activities have to focus on a broad spatial and climatic range of sites throughout Europe, including the primeval forests in the east, as started by the UNESCO World Heritage selection of “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”.