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This is my spot: What are the characteristics of the trees excavated by the Black Woodpecker? A case study in two managed French forests

Abstract : The Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius L.) is both an ecosystem engineer and an umbrella species: it has thecapacity to modify its environment through cavity excavation, which in turn favors a large range of species that depend on cavities but are unable to dig them themselves (secondary cavity nesters). However, the factors driving cavity excavation by the Black woodpecker at the tree scale remain poorly known. We analyzed the characteristics of trees bearing Black Woodpecker cavities to assess the bird's local habitat requirements and their conservation potential as habitat trees. We compared the traits and characteristics of trees bearing Black Woodpecker cavities (n=60) and control trees (n=56) in two managed lowland broadleave-dominated forests in France. We hypothesized that: (i) Cavity-trees would have lower wood density and display more conks of fungi than control-trees; (ii) The local environment of cavity-trees would be less crowded than those of the control trees. In particular, the first branch would be higher up, and their first neighboring tree would be further away from cavity-trees compared to control-trees; (iii) Cavity-trees would display a higher number of other woodpecker cavities and more saproxylic microhabitats than the control-trees. We validated most of our hypotheses and showed that cavity trees differed significantly from their control counterparts. Black Woodpeckers excavate trees with softer wood and higher first branches in a less crowded environment, thus minimizing both the energy dedicated to cavity excavation and predation risk. Second, cavitytrees bear more microhabitats and play a complementary umbrella role than what was documented before. They also appear a good candidate for habitat-tree conservation. In terms of biodiversity-friendly management measures, it would be beneficial to favor large isolated standing trees devoid of low branches (notably beech), especially in stands dominated by other tree species.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, July 20, 2022 - 5:58:10 PM
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Camille Puverel, A. Abourachid, C. Böhmer, J. M. Leban, M. Svoboda, et al.. This is my spot: What are the characteristics of the trees excavated by the Black Woodpecker? A case study in two managed French forests. Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 2019, 453, 9 p. ⟨10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117621⟩. ⟨hal-02609898⟩

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