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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • competition;
  • coarse woody debris;
  • facilitation;
  • saproxylic;
  • stochastic;
  • succession

Summary

1. Priority effects have been hypothesized to have long-lasting impact on community structure in natural ecosystems. Long-term studies of priority effects in natural ecosystems are however sparse, especially in terrestrial ecosystems.

2. Wood decay is a slow process involving a high diversity of insect and fungus species. Species interactions that drive change in communities of insects and fungi during wood decay are poorly understood because of a lack of sufficient long-term studies.

3. In this paper, we followed the colonization and succession of wood-living insects and fungi on cut trees during 15 years, from tree death and onwards, in a boreal forest landscape. We test the long-term priority effects hypothesis that the identity and abundance of species that colonize first affect the colonization success of later-arriving species. We also hypothesize that species interact in both facilitative and inhibitory ways, which ultimately affect habitat quality for a red-listed late-succession beetle species.

4. Possible causal associations between species were explored by path analysis. The results indicate that one bark beetle species, Hylurgops palliatus, and one wood-borer species, Monochamus sutor, which colonized the wood during the first year after cutting, influenced the occurrence of a rare, wood-living beetle, Peltis grossa, that started to emerge from the stumps about 10 years later. The positive effects of Hylurgops palliatus and negative effects of M. sutor were largely mediated through the wood-decaying fungus species Fomitopsis pinicola.

5. The study shows that variable priority effects may have long-lasting impact on community assembly in decaying wood. The study also exemplifies new possibilities for managing populations of threatened species by exploring links between early, well-understood species guilds and late, more poorly understood species guilds.