Plant and bird diversity in natural forests and in native and exotic plantations in NW Portugal.
Forest ecosystems have been subjected to continuous dynamics between deforestation and forestation. Assessing the effects of these processes on biodiversity could be essential for conservation planning. We analyzed patterns of species richness, diversity and evenness of plants and birds in patches of natural forest of Quercus spp. and in stands of native Pinus pinaster and exotic Eucalyptus globulus in NW Portugal. We analyzed data of forest and non-forest species separately, at the intra-patch, patch and inter-patch scales. Forest plant richness, diversity and evenness were higher in oak forest than in pine and eucalypt plantations. In total, 52 species of forest plants were observed in oak forest, 33 in pine plantation and 28 in eucalypt plantation. Some forest species, such as Euphorbia dulcis, Omphalodes nitida and Eryngium juresianum, were exclusively or mostly observed in oak forest. Forest bird richness and diversity were higher in both oak and pine forests than in eucalypt forest; evenness did not differ among forests. In total, 16 species of forest birds were observed in oak forest, 18 in pine forest and 11 in eucalypt forest. Species such as Certhia brachydactyla, Sitta europaea and Dendrocopos major were common in oak and/or pine patches but were absent from eucalypt stands. Species-area relationships of forest plants and forest birds in oak patches had consistently a higher slope, at both the intra and inter-patch scales, than species-area relationships of forest species in plantations and non-forest species in oak forest. These findings demonstrate the importance of oak forest for the conservation of forest species diversity, pointing the need to conserve large areas of oak forest due to the apparent vulnerability of forest species to area loss. Additionally, diversity patterns in pine forest were intermediate between oak forest and eucalypt forest, suggesting that forest species patterns may be affected by forest naturalness.