Molder A.,Northwest German Forest Research Station |
Schmidt M.,Northwest German Forest Research Station |
Engel F.,Northwest German Forest Research Station |
Schonfelder E.,Northwest German Forest Research Station |
Schulz F.,Schulstrasse 43
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2015
Ancient woodlands, with their long ecological continuity, frequently harbor a high number of typical, rare and threatened species, and are therefore of particular importance for nature conservation. To pinpoint these habitats, a common application is the use of plants as "ancient woodland indicators". The occurrence of these particular species allows for evaluating the continuity of woodland cover in time. While lists of ancient woodland vascular plants have been derived for many regions, the identification and use of bryophytes as ancient woodland indicators has been widely neglected. This is a bit surprising because certain woodland bryophytes are very sensitive to varying environmental conditions or changes in land management. It therefore appeared promising to compile an ecologically grounded list of ancient woodland indicator bryophytes for practical use. In this study, we present a set of ancient woodland indicator bryophytes based on the analysis of datasets from the North German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. To compile this list, we systematically evaluated the bryophyte distribution data from floristic surveys in relation to ancient woodland cover data from state-wide inventories. In this way, we were able to determine ancient woodland bryophytes using consistent and repeatable statistical methods. The presented list of 31 ancient woodland indicator bryophytes is ecologically sound and corresponds well with data from the sparse literature. We could distinguish two groups of ancient woodland indicator bryophytes. The first group is linked to base-rich, semi-natural deciduous woodlands with high soil and air humidity. The second group comprises acidophilic bryophytes that occur not only in acidic beech and oak woods, but also in acidic mixed or coniferous forests on ancient woodland sites. Apart from the ancient woodland indicator bryophytes, we could identify one group of recent woodland bryophytes and four groups of bryophytes that are more or less indifferent with respect to woodland continuity. Finally, we provide recommendations for the application of ancient woodland indicator bryophytes in nature conservation practice. Management suggestions for the conservation of the typical bryophyte diversity of ancient semi-natural woodlands are also given. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.