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Woodpeckers as indicators of natural forest ecosystems

WeißrückenspechtCentral Europe is an old cultural landscape in which practically no area has been able to preserve its natural state. The far-reaching anthropogenic changes also affect the remaining type of forest strongly, that it is not known exactly what they look like under natural conditions. Largely unchanged forests can only be found on small remaining areas in some higher mountains and in the far east of Central Europe. Naturally, around 95% of Germany’s area would be covered with forest. The European beech or Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) would probably occupy around 70% of the country’s area as the predominant tree species in western Germany. Due to their specific diet and the associated high degree of specialization, woodpeckers are particularly suitable as indicators for near-natural forest ecosystems. From this, the anthropogenic changes in the forests can be derived. The wealth of woodpecker species in Europe reflects quite well the strength of human influence on the originally forested landscapes. In almost all European countries, the clade of woodpeckers would probably be represented with 7 to 8 species if there would be still larger natural forest areas. The sensitivity of the woodpecker to habitat changes and thus its suitability as an ecological indicator increases with the degree of specialization and ranges from the “habitat generalist” Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) to the highly endangered White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus).

Several studies, among others in the Bialowieza forest show that the White-backed Woodpecker is the most sensitive species of woodpeckers. It can only find optimal conditions in strictly Continue reading Woodpeckers as indicators of natural forest ecosystems