Despite the influence of cavities on the survival and distribution of cavity-dependent fauna, the variation in the density and characteristics of tree cavities across different habitat types in tropical forests is unknown. In this study, we surveyed 26 312 living trees from 376 species and compared cavity density and characteristics (height, size, type, and orientation) across five habitat types (valley, low-slope, high-slope, high-gully, and high-plateau) in a 20-hectare tropical rainforest in southwest China. From a total of 2047 cavities, we found that cavity density was mainly driven by habitat rather than tree species richness or diameter at breast height (DBH), and the characteristics of cavities were not uniformly distributed across habitats. Cavities were significantly more abundant in high- and low-slope than high-plateau habitats. Compared with other habitats, more “butt hollow” cavity types were found in high-slope habitat and they occurred at a lower tree height, whereas more “crack” cavities were found in low-slope habitat and they had a narrower entrance diameter. Although the mean orientation of cavities faced towards the northeast, cavity orientation varied significantly across habitat types. Our results indicate that certain types of cavities are concentrated in specific habitat types, which can provide avenues for forest management and biodiversity conservation. We highlight the importance of habitat heterogeneity in providing resources for cavity nesters.
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