What can forest managers learn from research on fossil insects? Linking forest ecological history, biodiversity and management

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  • Author(s): Whitehouse, Nicki J.;
  • Date: 2006
  • Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-93. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. pp. 30-41
  • Station ID: --


This paper outlines the usefulness of using fossil insects, particularly Coleoptera (beetles), preserved in waterlogged palaeoenvironmental and archaeological deposits in understanding the changing nature of forest ecosystems and their associated insect population dynamics over the last 10,000 years. Research in Europe has highlighted the complex nature of early forest ecosystems, in particular the role of dead wood and grazing animals. This research suggests that the north European primary forest has similarities to pasture woodlands, rather than the forest manager’s perception of closed canopy systems. Human activity has had a major impact on forest ecosystems, resulting in an expansion of plants and animals associated with cleared landscapes and pasture and also the local extirpation of a sizeable proportion of taxa from the forests of northern Europe. The decline in these species has been seen as resulting from habitat loss due to human impact on the forest, which intensified from about 2500 years ago onwards, coupled with subtle climate change effects. These extirpations will be discussed, with particular reference to the management of forest ecosystems for the benefit of their invertebrates (particularly those associated with dead wood), and emphasising how the record from archaeological and palaeoecological sites has significant relevance to modern woodland management and conservation. Moreover, the role of disturbances in maintaining the structure and biodiversity of the "wildwood" will be emphasied.

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