Forest decline differentially affects trophic guilds of canopy-dwelling beetles

Key message

Decline can affect the structure, resources, and microclimates of the forest canopy, and potentially have cascading effects on canopy-dwelling species. Our survey shows that an oak decline can promote saproxylic beetles, especially xylophagous ones, and generalist phyllophagous weevils. However, it negatively affects specialist leaf-eating species and has no effect on seed-eating weevils.


Context Decline in a context of climate change is expected to induce considerable changes in forest structure, potentially affecting habitat opportunities and trophic resources for numerous species. Nonetheless, the consequences of decline in forest biodiversity have rarely been studied.
Aims We aimed to characterize the impact of oak decline on different guilds of canopy-dwelling beetles.
Methods Beetles were sampled for three consecutive years in oak stands exhibiting different levels of decline. Several guilds were considered: (i) Buprestidae, (ii) other saproxylic beetles split into wood-boring species and non-wood-boring species, (iii) seed-eating weevils, and (iv) specialist and generalist leaf-eating weevils.
Results Overall, decline had positive effects on the abundance and biomass of beetles, though contrasting variations were observed at the species or guild levels. Wood-boring species, especially the main oak-associated buprestids, and other saproxylic species benefitted from decline conditions. However, at odds with the insect performance hypothesis, decline had a positive effect on generalist leaf-eating species, a negative effect on specialist leaf-eating species, and a null effect on seed-eating species.
Conclusion The increase in species richness for saproxylic and leaf-eating beetle communities suggests that decline might promote forest biodiversity. Our results call for further studies to thoroughly assess the functional outcomes of forest decline and to suggest management strategies for conservation biologists.

Agrilus; Quercus; Saproxylic beetles; Phyllophagous beetles; Seminiphagous beetles

Sallé, A., Parmain, G., Nusillard, B. et al. Forest decline differentially affects trophic guilds of canopy-dwelling beetles. Annals of Forest Science 77, 86 (2020).

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Data availability
The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study can be accessed at

Handling Editor
Cécile Robin

Topical Collection
This article is part of the Topical Collection “Entomological issues during forest diebacks

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