Rapid response of Orthoptera to restoration of montane heathland
Understanding how to restore threatened ecosystems is of special relevance for nature conservation. The aim of this study was to use Orthoptera as ecological indicators for the effects of montane heathland restoration in Central Europe. We analysed the three following treatments: (i) montane heathlands (MONHEATH) (N = 7), (ii) restoration sites (RESSITE) (N = 3) and (iii) clear-cuts of spruce forests as unprocessed and ungrazed control sites (CONTROL) (N = 3). Vegetation structure and microclimate differed considerably between MONHEATH on the one hand and RESSITE and CONTROL on the other hand. Orthoptera species richness and density did so too. MONHEATH was characterised by a high-growing dense dwarf-shrub and moss layer having a cool microclimate and high soil moisture. In contrast, RESSITE and CONTROL had sparse vegetation and a warm microclimate; Orthoptera species richness and density was highest on these sites. Our study clearly showed that heathland Orthoptera responded rapidly to restoration measures, while Ericaceae dwarf shrubs slowly established. The vast majority of Orthoptera species found on the restoration sites are early and mid-successional species. The colonization of the sites by late-successional Orthoptera species in the future will depend on the further development of the heathland vegetation; that is, if Ericaceae will expand to the sites. We conclude that the realised restoration measures are suitable to promote heathland Orthoptera of early and mid-successional stages. However, the current management of montane heathlands is insufficient and needs to be intensified in order to provide structurally diverse habitats with their characteristic orthopteran assemblages.