Twenty-five hitherto unknown species of beetle have been found on the Turkey’s oak trees, according to a study by Swedish researchers.
“Most of them would disappear if the trees were to be cut down, and the risk is great”, says project leader Nicklas Jansson, beetle ecologist at Linkoping University (LiU) in Sweden.
In Turkey, there are 18 species of the oak family, and Dr Jansson and his research team spent five years collecting beetles from oak trees in four large pastures in the south of the country.
They said the study areas – 1,200-1,500 metres above sea level – were important for sheep and goat farming, but were now threatened by felling to make way for productive forest management.
They warned that as with all felling there is a major risk that some species become extinct since the oak dwelling beetles stay so faithful to their biotope.
“Some of the species seem to have a very low motivation to leave and find a new oak,” Dr Jansson observed.
Most of the newly discovered beetles belong to the Elateridae and Tenobrionidae families and have been identified by some 20 specialists across Europe.
The results were presented at a conference on oak ecology in Isparta, Turkey.
The researchers identified a number of factors that could be responsible for the greater diversity of beetles:
- a climate that allowed species to hibernate during the Ice Ages
- the topography which creates many barriers in the form of mountain ranges and other obstacles to the mixing of species
- the geographic location as a bridge between Asia and Europe.
In a follow-up project, the research team planned to compare the oak fauna of seven countries, including Israel, Turkey, Italy, France, the UK and Sweden.
The oaks in the Turkish pastures are pollarded. Shepherd people prune the trees in July and during the dry season use the leaves as feed for sheep and goats while the branches become fuel.
As a result of pollarding, many of the oaks were hollow and contain wood mould, a very rich compost of decomposed wood, fungi, excrement and remains of dead animals.
“I hope that in finding new and unique species we will get the Turkish forestry authorities to open their eyes to their oak treasures and to begin conservation work in the most valuable areas,” Dr Jansson explained.
Source: AlphaGalileo press release