Beetles threatened by veteran tree loss

Stag Beetle. Photo: Essex Wildlife Trust

A new report by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has found that almost a fifth of saproxylic beetle species are being pushed towards extinction due to loss of tree cover, putting them amongst the most threatened species groups in Europe.

The "European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles" report found that 14% of populations of saproxylic beetles - those dependent on wood decay - were declining, compared to just 2% whose populations were increasing. A further 57% of populations did not have sufficient data to assess trends, highlighting the need for more data and recording effort to target these species. These beetles have an important role in recycling nutrients, and provide an important food source for birds and mammals. Some are also involved in pollination, a key natural process which is already being affected by declines in other pollinator groups such as bees.

The report attributes the decline in beetle populations to habitat loss, due to logging and removal of trees from the landscape. Of particular concern is the loss of older, veteran trees which contain the dead wood that these species rely on. Lack of land management to ensure the retention of older trees within the landscape, and localised removal of trees from public areas needs to be addressed to ensure that the habitat requirements of saproxylic beetles are met. There is also a need for inventories of ancient and veteran trees for each European country, to ensure these trees are protected in all landscapes.

The full report can be accessed from the European Commission's Website here.

Find out about our Essex veteran tree dataset, and other available data here.