iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


The Habitat-Trees experiment: using exotic tree species as new microhabitats for the native fauna

Livia Zapponi (1), Emma Minari (1), Luca Longo (3), Ilaria Toni (1), Franco Mason (4), Alessandro Campanaro (1)   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 8, Issue 4, Pages 464-470 (2014)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1281-007
Published: Oct 22, 2014 - Copyright © 2014 SISEF

Research Articles

The cavities that develop in veteran trees represent a key microhabitat for forest biodiversity and especially for secondary cavity nesters that rely on this resource for shelter. Since the availability of deadwood, veteran and hollow trees is threatened by forest management, we explored the possibility of increasing the presence of these scarce resources. To increase the abundance of dead wood-microhabitats, 113 trees of the hybrid planes (Platanus x acerifolia) were converted into new living structures, the Habitat Trees (HT). To investigate the potential of this resource on the native avian fauna, six types of cavities were designed according to the size requirements of the target bird species. The temporal evolution of the cavities and their use by birds were then studied for eight years. The artificial cavities generally did not compromise growth and stability of the trees, and the majority remained alive. These hollows offered better thermal insulation compared to traditional nest-boxes and natural cavities. Their use increased during the first three years, reaching the 80%. In the following years, the use declined (probably because of the increase of rot and displacement of the lids).This highlights the need of management to maintain their suitability through time. Our results suggest a possible cost-effective alternative use of alien tree species, which should be included in management actions to compensate the shortage of hollow trees in managed forests.


Birds, Deadwood, Exotic Species, Forest Management, LIFE Project, Saproxylic Organisms

Authors’ address

Livia Zapponi
Emma Minari
Ilaria Toni
Alessandro Campanaro
Centro Nazionale per lo Studio e Conservazione della Biodiversità Forestale “Bosco Fontana”, str. Mantova 29, I-46045 Marmirolo (MN, Italy)
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Biologia Agroambientale e Forestale, v. Salaria Km 29.300, I-00015 Monterotondo Scalo (RM, Italy)
Luca Longo
v. XXVIII Marzo 19, I-37133 Verona (Italy)
Franco Mason
Centro Nazionale per lo Studio e la Conservazione della Biodiversità Forestale “Bosco Fontana” di Verona, v. C. Ederle 16/a I-37126 Verona (Italy)
Dipartimento di Biologia e Biotecnologie “Charles Darwin”, Università“La Sapienza”, Roma (Italy)

Corresponding author

Alessandro Campanaro


Zapponi L, Minari E, Longo L, Toni I, Mason F, Campanaro A (2014). The Habitat-Trees experiment: using exotic tree species as new microhabitats for the native fauna. iForest 8: 464-470. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1281-007

Academic Editor

Massimo Faccoli

Paper history

Received: Mar 06, 2014
Accepted: Jul 06, 2014

First online: Oct 22, 2014
Publication Date: Aug 02, 2015
Publication Time: 3.60 months

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