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Insect herbivory and avian insectivory in novel native oak forests: Divergent effects of stand size and connectivity

Abstract : The value of novel native broadleaf woodlands for biodiversity conservation is important to consider for adequate forest management in rural landscapes. Passive reforestation has been proposed as a cost-efficient tool for creating networks of novel native forest stands that would help restoring biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Yet to date the ecological functioning of such stands remains strongly understudied compared to forest remnants resulting from longer-term fragmentation. We assessed how the size and connectivity of newly established Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) stands in rural landscapes of SW France affect rates of herbivory by different insect guilds as well as rates of avian insectivory and the abundance and richness of insectivorous birds. Comparing 18 novel forest stands along a gradient of size (0.04-1.15 ha) and cover of broadleaf forests in the surroundings (0-30% within a 500 m radius), we found that even the smallest stands are colonised by leaf miners and chewers/skeletonizers, and that rates of herbivory are globally comparable to those reported from older and larger oak forests. The size of stands had a relatively minor effect on herbivory, whereas it increased the abundance of insectivorous bird. It also determined rates of avian insectivory as estimated by an experiment with plasticine caterpillars. These rates were however rather low and unrelated with the extent of herbivory in the stand. Overall, our study indicates that insect herbivores tend to react more rapidly to the establishment of novel native forests than their avian predators as the latter may depend on the development of larger patches of suitable habitat in the surrounding landscape. To favour a rapid build-up of diverse, and hence stable, trophic networks involving insect herbivores and their predators, woodland creation schemes should therefore primarily focus on habitat size and quality.
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Elena Valdés Correcher, Inge van Halder, Luc Barbaro, Bastien Castagneyrol, Arndt Hampe. Insect herbivory and avian insectivory in novel native oak forests: Divergent effects of stand size and connectivity. Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 2019, 445, pp.146-153. ⟨10.1016/j.foreco.2019.05.018⟩. ⟨hal-02181063⟩

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