Patterns of diversity across spatial scales in forest successions are being overlooked, despite their importance for developing sustainable management practices. Here, we tested the recently proposed U-shaped biodiversity model of forest succession. A chronosequence of 11 stands spanning from 5 to 400 years since the last disturbance was used. Understory species presence was recorded along 200 m long transects of 20 × 20 cm quadrates. Alpha diversity (species richness, Shannon and Simpson diversity indices) and three types of beta diversity indices were assessed at multiple scales. Beta diversity was expressed by a) spatial compositional variability (number and diversity of species combinations), b) pairwise spatial turnover (between plots Sorensen, Jaccard, and Bray–Curtis dissimilarity), and c) spatial variability coefficients (CV% of alpha diversity measures). Our results supported the U-shaped model for both alpha and beta diversity. The strongest differences appeared between active and abandoned coppices. The maximum beta diversity emerged at characteristic scales of 2 m in young coppices and 10 m in later successional stages. We conclude that traditional coppice management maintains high structural diversity and heterogeneity in the understory. The similarly high beta diversities in active coppices and old-growth forests suggest the presence of microhabitats for specialist species of high conservation value.
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