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Saproxylic insect assemblages in Canadian forests: diversity, ecology, and conservation1

  • David W. Langor (a1), H.E. James Hammond (a1), John R. Spence (a2), Joshua Jacobs (a2) and Tyler P. Cobb (a2)...

Abstract

Saproxylic insect assemblages inhabiting dead wood in Canadian forests are highly diverse and variable but quite poorly understood. Adequate assessment of these assemblages poses significant challenges with respect to sampling, taxonomy, and analysis. Their assessment is nonetheless critical to attaining the broad goals of sustainable forest management because such species are disproportionately threatened elsewhere by the reductions in dead wood generally associated with commercial exploitation of northern forests. The composition of the saproxylic fauna is influenced by many factors, including tree species, degree of decay, stand age, and cause of tree death. Wildfire and forest harvesting have differential impacts on saproxylic insect assemblages and on their recovery in postdisturbance stands. Exploration of saproxylic insect responses to variable retention harvesting and experimental burns is contributing to the development of prescriptions for conserving saproxylic insects in boreal forests. Understanding of processes that determine diversity patterns and responses of saproxylic insects would benefit from increased attention to natural history. Such work should aim to provide a habitat-classification system for dead wood to better identify habitats (and associated species) at risk as a result of forest management. This tool could also be used to improve strategies to better maintain saproxylic organisms and their central nutrient-cycling functions in managed forests.

Les peuplements d’insectes saproxyliques qui habitent le bois mort dans les forêts canadiennes sont très diversifiés et variables, mais bien mal connus. Une évaluation adéquate de ces peuplements soulève des problèmes importants d’échantillonnage, de taxonomie et d’analyse. Leur évaluation est néanmoins essentielle pour atteindre les grands objectifs de la gestion durable des forêts, parce que ces espèces font face ailleurs à une menace démesurément élevée à cause des réductions générales du bois mort associées à l’exploitation commerciale des forêts nordiques. La composition de la faune saproxylique est influencée par plusieurs facteurs, dont l’espèce d’arbre, l’importance de la décomposition, l’âge du peuplement forestier et la cause de la mort de l’arbre. Les feux de brousse et la coupe forestière ont des impacts différents sur les peuplements d’insectes saproxyliques et sur leur récupération dans les peuplements forestiers qui se développent après la perturbation. L’examen des réactions des insectes saproxyliques aux coupes avec des taux variables de rétention et aux feux expérimentaux contribue à l’élaboration de suggestions pour la conservation des insectes saproxyliques dans les forêts boréales. Une attention plus grande portée à l’histoire naturelle des insectes saproxyiliques favoriserait une meilleure compréhension des processus déterminants de leurs patrons de diversité et de leurs réactions. Ces travaux devraient chercher à dresser un système de classification des habitats de bois mort afin de mieux identifier les habitats (et leurs espèces associées) qui sont menacés par la gestion des forêts. Un tel outil pourrait aussi servir à améliorer les stratégies pour assurer le maintien des organismes saproxyliques et de leurs fonctions centrales de recyclage des nutriments dans les forêts aménagées.

[Traduit par la Rédaction]

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2Corresponding author (e-mail: dlangor@nrcan.gc.ca).

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Saproxylic insect assemblages in Canadian forests: diversity, ecology, and conservation1

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