Decaying wood is one of the most important elements for species richness in boreal forests. We tested how well reserve selection based on the amount and quality of decaying wood results in a representation of four ecologically different taxa (beetles, birds, wood-inhabiting fungi, and vascular plants). We also compared the cost-efficiency of the use of dead-wood indicators with comprehensive species inventory. Our database included 32 seminatural old forest stands located in northern Finland. Decaying wood was a relatively good indicator of saproxylic species but not overall species richness. Even though dead wood did not reflect accurately overall species richness, our results indicated that the use of decaying wood as an indicator in site selection was more cost-efficient than using information from large-scale species inventories. Thus, decaying wood is a valuable surrogate for species richness, but other cost-efficient indicators that reflect the requirements of those species which are not dependent on decaying wood should be identified.
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