We just published the first paper related to the project Dr. FOREST. The article https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108931 had been published in Biological Conservation by the international team of authors, with leading role of Mareike Kortmann – a PhD student at the University of Wurzburg.
Protected areas are important to maintain biodiversity and provide recreational opportunities to society. However, many protected areas are affected by unprecedented, large and severe natural disturbances, like bark beetle outbreaks. Due to the contrasting responses of different taxonomic groups to disturbance events and largely negative human perceptions of disturbed landscapes, there are conflicting opinions about the appropriate way of managing affected stands. Aligning these different objectives and understanding the responses of biodiversity and visitors’ perceptions to different disturbance severities is a prerequisite for disturbance management in protected areas. In this paper we conducted multi-taxon biodiversity surveys – including meta-barcoding of hyperdiverse groups such as insects and fungi – and analysed the restorativeness (i.e. the landscape’s ability to renew personal cognitive capacities for forest visitors) using visitor surveys in five locations throughout Europe. We found that arthropod biomass and the diversity of primary producers and pollinators increased linearly with increasing disturbance severity, while overall multi-diversity (an index of the average scaled species richness per taxonomic group) did not change. Restorativeness decreased linearly with increasing disturbance severity; however, even heavily disturbed forests still had high restorativeness. In spite of the ongoing debates about disturbance management, the high biodiversity and restorativeness that accompany disturbance suggest that major goals of protected areas are not threatened by bark beetle disturbances.