The LIFE+ FAGUS project adopted a multi-taxon approach, i.e. different taxonomic groups were sampled to assess their response to the concrete conservation actions. This approach is valued by several scientists since the effect of specific management practices may be completely different for different taxonomic groups.
The multi-taxonomic data of LIFE+ FAGUS were the starting point to establish a network of scientists and of information on European forest biodiversity that represents an important dissemination activity to be carried out after the end of the project. The sustainable management of forests, aimed at preserving both biodiversity and the services it supports, is a topic of primary importance for the whole European continent. However, a thorough scientific understanding of the trade-offs and synergies between forest management and multi-taxonomic diversity is still lacking, also due to the scattered and inadequate information on the distribution of forest biodiversity.
By merging forest biodiversity datasets deriving from different European projects, we established a network of European scientists working in France, Italy and Hungary, that combine existing structural and multi-taxonomic biodiversity data on deciduous European forests and that will contribute to overcome the problem of partial and fragmented data. The network includes five universities (Sapienza University of Rome, Università degli studi della Tuscia, Università degli Studi di Padova, University of Bologna, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and two research centers (Hungarian Institute of Ecology and Botany, French
National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture).
This collaborative network built a Europe-wide database that is being used to test the following hypotheses:
· a higher degree of forest structural heterogeneity results in higher levels of biological diversity for multiple taxonomic groups;
· the existence of a substantial congruence in the response of different taxa to different levels of structural heterogeneity of forest systems.
Through this research we will be able to assess if managing forests for a higher structural heterogeneity is worth for a wide range of taxonomic groups.
Currently we collected information on 23 sites, for a total of more than 350 sampling units (see map) with information on forest structure and six taxonomic groups (saproxylic beetles, vascular plants epiphytic lichens, wood-inhabiting fungi, bryophytes, and birds).
The picture shows the distribution of study sites in Europe. Forest cover is indicated by green color (from the Joint Research Centre http://forest.jrc.ec.europa.eu), the size of the dots is log-proportional to the number of plots at each site.