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Microcosm in the fork of a branch

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A tree cavity is much more than just a hollow in a branch fork or tree stem: It is its own small cosmos, periodically filled with water, which is inhabited by leaf-decomposers like insect larvae, worms and microorganisms. Birds, small mammals and insects hunt them and use the cavities as a water source. The WSL entomologist, Martin Gossner, has been investigating these small ecosystems as they are good indicators of environmental changes. Studies in Germany, for example, have shown that intensive forest management reduces the species diversity in the cavities as fewer habitats and less food is available. To obtain standardised information, Martin and his team created artificial tree cavities using plastic buckets securely attached to the tree stems. Their initial results indicate that this model system allows them to test how changes in the spatial distribution , variety and condition of the cavities affect the species communities and the processes associated with them, such as the decomposition of plant material. (Beate Kittl, Diagonal 1/18)