Faunal diversity of Fagus sylvatica forests: A regional and European perspective based on three indicator groups


  • H. Walentowski Bavarian State Institute of Forestry, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 1, 85354 Freising
  • S. Müller-Kroehling Bavarian State Institute of Forestry, Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 1, 85354 Freising
  • E. Bergmeier Department of Vegetation & Phytodiversity Analysis, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • M. Bernhardt-Römermann Institute of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
  • M.M. Gossner Terrestrial Ecology Research Group, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Center for Food and Life Sciences Weihenstephan, Munich University of Technology, Germany
  • A. Reif Department of Vegetation Science and Site Classification, University of Freiburg, Germany
  • E.-D. Schulze Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
  • H. Bußler Bavarian State Institute of Forestry, Freising, Germany
  • C. Strätz Office for Ecological Studies, Bayreuth, Germany
  • W. Adelmann Bavarian Academy for Nature Conservation and Landscape Management, Germany




beech forests, faunal biodiversity, Carabidae, conservation priorities, ecological history, habitat continuity, Mollusca, primeval forest relicts, saproxylic beetles


While the postglacial history of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and the plant species composition of beech forests in  Central Europe are fairly well understood, the faunal biodiversity has been less well investigated. We studied three groups of  mostly sedentary organisms in beech forest at regional and European scales by combining field studies with a compilation of existing literature and expert knowledge. Specifically, we examined the relationship between host tree genera and saproxylic  beetles, and the diversity and composition of forest ground-dwelling molluscs and ground beetles in relation to the abundance  of beech. At a west central European scale (Germany), where beech has a “young” ecological and biogeographical history,  we found 48 primeval forest relict species of saproxylic beetles associated with beech, 124 ground beetles and 91 molluscs  inhabiting beech forest, yet none exclusive of west central European beech forests. High levels of faunal similarity between beech and other woodland trees suggested that many of the beech forest dwelling species are euryoecious and likely to  originate from mid-Holocene mixed broadleaf forests. Beech forests of the mountain ranges in southern and east central  Europe, which are ecologically and biogeographically “old”, were found to harbour distinct species assemblages, including  beech forest specialists (such as 10 carabid species in the Carpathians) and narrow-range endemics of broadleaf forest. The  observed biodiversity patterns suggest differentiated conservation priorities in “young” and “old” European beech forest  regions.


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