Wood decomposition is increased by insect diversity, selection effects, and interactions between insects and microbes

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Jia-Yun Zou - (Author)
  • Marc W. Cadotte - (Author)
  • Claus Baessler - , Goethe University Frankfurt a.M., University of Bayreuth (Author)
  • Roland Brandl - , University Hospital Gießen and Marburg (Author)
  • Petr Baldrian - , Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics of Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Author)
  • Werner Borken - , University of Bayreuth (Author)
  • Elisa Stengel - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Ya-Huang Luo - (Author)
  • Joerg Mueller - , University of Würzburg (Author)
  • Sebastian Seibold - , Chair of Forest Zoology (Author)


Biodiversity drives ecosystem processes, but its influence on deadwood decomposition is poorly understood. To test the effects of insect diversity on wood decomposition, we conducted a mesocosm experiment manipulating the species richness and functional diversity of beetles. We applied a novel approach using computed tomography scanning to quantify decomposition by insects and recorded fungal and bacterial communities. Decomposition rates increased with both species richness and functional diversity of beetles, but the effects of functional diversity were linked to beetle biomass, and to the presence of one large-bodied species in particular. This suggests that mechanisms behind observed biodiversity effects are the selection effect, which is linked to the occurrence probability of large species, and the complementarity effect, which is driven by functional differentiation among species. Additionally, beetles had significant indirect effects on wood decomposition via bacterial diversity, fungal community composition, and fungal biomass. Our experiment shows that wood decomposition is driven by beetle diversity and its interactions with bacteria and fungi. This highlights that both insect and microbial biodiversity are critical to maintaining ecosystem functioning.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4184
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number12
Early online date3 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37787980
Scopus 85175572438
ORCID /0000-0002-7968-4489/work/149439496



  • Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning, Functional diversity, Insect diversity, Insect-microbe interactions, Wood decomposition, Animals, Wood/microbiology, Ecosystem, Insecta, Biodiversity, Coleoptera, Bacteria

Library keywords