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Keywords:

  • habitat fragmentation;
  • oak specialists;
  • trees as islands

Abstract:  Whether trees represent habitat islands and therefore are influenced by similar biogeographic processes as ‘real’ islands is controversial. For trees in highly fragmented landscapes the impacts of spatial isolation on arthropod communities have already been demonstrated. However, we have almost no evidence that in large forests the arthropod communities on single trees in a closed canopy matrix are influenced by similar processes. In the present study the influence of spatial isolation on the specialized oak crown fauna was analysed in a large broadleaved forest area in northern Bavaria, Germany. The dependence of specialists on the proportion of oaks in the surrounding forest was investigated by using flight interception traps (67 on oak, 19 on beech). As target species, saproxylic and herbivorous Coleoptera and Heteroptera were sampled. The following two hypotheses were tested: (1) The proportion of oak specialists differs for oaks in beech forests and oaks in oak forests. (2) The proportion of oak specialists increases with the proportion of oaks in the surrounding forest. For all species groups, the proportion of oak specialists was higher in oak crowns than in beech crowns. Herbivorous beetles and true bugs showed a higher proportion of specialists in oak forests than on single oaks in beech forests. The proportion of herbivorous oak specialists increased significantly with increasing numbers of adjacent oak trees, while saproxylic Coleoptera showed no relationship to oak density. For herbivorous Coleoptera a threshold of higher proportion occurred where >30% oak was present, and for Heteroptera a first threshold was identified at values >70% and a second at >30%. This indicates that larger habitat patches within a closed forest canopy matrix support larger populations of herbivorous oak specialists. Hence, similar effects of spatial isolation might occur in a closed forest as have already been shown for highly fragmented open landscapes.