Edge creation and tree dieback influence the patch-tracking metapopulation dynamics of a red-listed epiphytic bryophyte
1. Edges in landscapes have an effect on the abundance of many species but the underlying ecological mechanisms are poorly known for most taxonomic groups. One way to gain insight into the mechanisms is to examine how key demographic or metapopulation parameters are affected by proximity to edge. The main objective of this study was to investigate the effects of edge creation through clearcutting on the dynamics of forest species’ metapopulations.
2. We used the red-listed epiphytic moss Neckera pennata as a model species. Based on data from repeated surveys of a metapopulation and its host tree network in a hemiboreal forest, we tested the effect of edge creation on key metapopulation parameters: rates of local colonization and extinction, local abundance growth and patch destruction through the fall of host trees. We predicted the long-term consequences of the edge effects using simulations with Bayesian statistical models. We also explored the potential effects of the pathogen Chalara fraxinea causing ash dieback, a tree disease currently spreading in Europe.
3. The colonization probability on host trees unoccupied by the moss increased with increasing connectivity to occupied trees. The growth of local populations on occupied trees decreased with increasing proximity to edge, and with initial local abundance. Stochastic extinctions of the epiphyte from standing trees were very rare and only occurred near the edge; most of the observed extinctions were deterministic due to tree fall. Tree fall decreased with increasing distance from the edge into the forest, and with increasing tree diameter.
4. Under edge conditions, simulations predicted decreases in the total number of host trees, number of occupied host trees, and in the total abundance of the epiphyte over a 30-year period. We suggest that ash dieback increases the tree fall rate and thereby the local extinction rate, leading to increased metapopulation extinction risk.
5. Synthesis and applications. The results show that small protected forest areas such as woodland key habitats may not allow long-term persistence of red-listed epiphytes if they are influenced by edge creation through clearcutting. Delineating uncut buffers of 50–100 m around the protected areas may alleviate such effects.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Box 7026, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden 2: Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), SE-90183 Umeå, Sweden 3: Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Box 7044, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden
Publication date: June 1, 2011