SLU news

Ground beetle communities lose species and functionality following intensive forest fertilization

Published: 26 April 2021
Black insect on wood.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) reported the overall negative effect of boreal forest fertilization on ground beetle assemblages that could potentially lead to reduced system resilience and to lower provision of regulation services.

Using a large-scale ecological experiment located in southern Sweden, the research team tested the effect of young spruce plantation short-term fertilization, on ground beetle diversity and community assembly.

- This is the first time that this type of intensive forest management, has been found to affect the diversity and community assembly of secondary consumers (i.e. ground beetles), and this could have profound implications in the way we manage boreal forests in the future, stated the manuscript’s first author, Dr. Antonio Rodríguez of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Senior Lecturer Therese Löfroth added:

- Previously, large-scale intensive forest fertilization was viewed as a potential management to meet increasing demands for carbon sequestration and biomass production from boreal forests. However, forests managed for maximizing wood biomass are structurally simpler, leading to functionally homogeneous beetle assemblages with lower diversity at the landscape scale.

In the team’s latest research published in Journal of Applied Ecology, Antonio Rodríguez and his colleagues found that the large-scale implementation of forest fertilization has overtly negative effects on ground beetle diversity, reducing variation in response and functional traits, which may reduce resilience to disturbance and lower service provision by this functionally diverse group of arthropods.

 - In other words, introducing more intensive management schemes in already heavily managed forest landscapes put forest biodiversity and ecosystem service provision at great risk, offsetting wood biomass maximization targets, explained Therese Löfroth.

Dense forest. Photo.
Dense forest provides poor field-layer vegetation. Photo: Jörgen Wiklund

The article

Rodríguez, A, Hekkala, A‐M, Sjögren, J, Strengbom, J, Löfroth, T. Boreal forest fertilization leads to functional homogenization of ground beetle assemblages. J Appl Ecol. 2021; 00: 1– 10.‐2664.13877