Relating forest structural characteristics to bat and bird diversity in the Italian Alps


The global decline of biodiversity has affected European forests, involving many tree species and forest-dwelling threatened animals. An integrated approach linking forest structure and multi-taxon diversity is increasingly needed to maintain the multifunctionality of forest ecosystems. We investigated the relationship between forest structure, deadwood elements, canopy attributes, and tree-related microhabitats on bat and bird communities in the north-eastern Italian Alps. We collected forest attributes, bats, and bird data on 40 forest plots encompassing the diversity of forest types. To assess the different contributions of each forest attribute variables we performed a two-step statistical analysis using generalised and linear models, including bat and bird taxonomical and functional diversity indices as response variables. Our findings reveal that bats and birds respond differently to variation in forest structural characteristics. Specifically, bat species richness was higher in forests with both higher standing tree and lying deadwood volume. The Shannon diversity index for bird community was higher in forests with high volumes of coarse lying deadwood and stumps. Moreover, plots with mature trees, gaps, and heterogeneous diameter distribution fostered the presence of generalist species of bats and birds, while the abundance of tree-related microhabitats was not significant for these two taxa. This study demonstrates that the optimal habitat conditions for bats and birds in Alpine forests are multifaceted. Promoting distinctive elements within forest stands and a complex forest structure through adaptations in forest management interventions would enhance the conservation of multi-taxon forest biodiversity.

Forest Ecology and Management 554(121673)