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Keywords:

  • charcoal hearth;
  • deadwood;
  • microclimate;
  • organic matter accumulation;
  • pit mining;
  • topsoil structuring

Historical land use provides long-term field experiments that give valuable clues for ecosystem management and habitat restoration. We hypothesized that remnants of a small-scale charcoal-ore industry that ceased more than a century ago still affect soil properties and the litter-dwelling fauna of a beech forest on rendzina soil (pH 4–6.5). We sampled the remains of charcoal kilns, small mining pits, and mounds of dugout material. Soils from kilns displayed increased carbon and nutrient contents and soils from kilns and in pits tended to be moister than that from all other locations. Leaf litter accumulated in the pits. Most mesofauna taxa occurred independent of the modifications, whereas larger-sized Collembola and many macrofauna taxa (Aranea, Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Isopoda, Coleoptera, and Gastropoda) were more abundant in the pits. Snails are highly sensitive to microclimatic fluctuations and structural changes and thus were used to compare man-made structures with natural ones: assemblages from kilns equaled those from the unmodified forest floor, assemblages from pits resembled those from adjacent to coarse woody debris (CWD), and assemblages from mounds resembled those from outcrops and tree bases. The outcrops were the local keystone structure, but mining pits and CWD added to species richness as they provided shelter for hygrophilous species. We thus recommend maintaining or creating a diversified soil surface structure in post-mining land reclamation to accumulate organic matter and nutrients and to buffer microclimatic extremes.