Differential Responses of Herbivores and Herbivory to Management in Temperate European Beech
Forest management not only affects biodiversity but also might alter ecosystem processes mediated by the organisms, i.e. herbivory the removal of plant biomass by plant-eating insects and other arthropod groups. Aiming at revealing general relationships between forest management and herbivory we investigated aboveground arthropod herbivory in 105 plots dominated by European beech in three different regions in Germany in the sun-exposed canopy of mature beech trees and on beech saplings in the understorey. We separately assessed damage by different guilds of herbivores, i.e. chewing, sucking and scraping herbivores, gall-forming insects and mites, and leaf-mining insects. We asked whether herbivory differs among different forest management regimes (unmanaged, uneven-aged managed, even-aged managed) and among age-classes within even-aged forests. We further tested for consistency of relationships between regions, strata and herbivore guilds. On average, almost 80% of beech leaves showed herbivory damage, and about 6% of leaf area was consumed. Chewing damage was most common, whereas leaf sucking and scraping damage were very rare. Damage was generally greater in the canopy than in the understorey, in particular for chewing and scraping damage, and the occurrence of mines. There was little difference in herbivory among differently managed forests and the effects of management on damage differed among regions, strata and damage types. Covariates such as wood volume, tree density and plant diversity weakly influenced herbivory, and effects differed between herbivory types. We conclude that despite of the relatively low number of species attacking beech; arthropod herbivory on beech is generally high. We further conclude that responses of herbivory to forest management are multifaceted and environmental factors such as forest structure variables affecting in particular microclimatic conditions are more likely to explain the variability in herbivory among beech forest plots.