Distinctive life traits and distribution along environmental gradients of dominant and subordinate Mediterranean ant species

Arnan X., Cerdá X., Retana J. (2012) Distinctive life traits and distribution along environmental gradients of dominant and subordinate Mediterranean ant species. Oecologia. 170: 489-500.
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Doi: 10.1007/s00442-012-2315-y

Resum:

For most animal and plant species, life traits strongly affect their species-specific role, function or position within ecological communities. Previous studies on ant communities have mostly focused on the role of dominant species and the outcome of interspecific interactions. However, life traits of ant species have seldom been considered within a community framework. This study (1) analyses life traits related to ecological and behavioural characteristics of dominant and subordinate ant species from 13 sites distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, (2) determines how similar the ant species are within each of the two levels of the dominance hierarchy, and (3) establishes the distribution patterns of these different groups of species along environmental gradients. Our results showed that the differences between dominants and subordinates fall into two main categories: resource exploitation and thermal tolerance. Dominant species have more populated colonies and defend food resources more fiercely than subordinates, but they display low tolerance to high temperatures. We have identified different assemblages of species included within each of these two levels in the dominance hierarchy. The distribution of these assemblages varied along the environmental gradient, shifting from dominant Dolichoderinae and cryptic species in moist areas, to dominant Myrmicinae and hot climate specialists mainly in open and hot sites. We have been able to identify a set of life traits of the most common Iberian ant species that has enabled us to characterise groups of dominant and subordinate species. Although certain common features within the groups of both dominants and subordinates always emerge, other different features allow for differentiating subgroups within each of these groups. These different traits allow the different subgroups coping with particular conditions across environmental gradients. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

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The age of monumental olive trees (Olea europaea) in northeastern Spain

Arnan X., López B.C., Martínez-Vilalta J., Estorach M., Poyatos R. (2012) The age of monumental olive trees (Olea europaea) in northeastern Spain. Dendrochronologia. 30: 11-14.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.dendro.2011.02.002

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Trees can reach ages that in some cases amount to thousands of years. In the Mediterranean region, olive trees (Olea europaea) have traditionally been considered a particularly long-lived species. The main objective of this study was to assess the age of large olive trees considered to be millenarian and classified as monumental trees in northeastern Spain. We extracted cores of 14 individuals and obtained 8 sections of trees which had already been cut in the area where the largest olive trees in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula are found. The age of the sampled olive trees was assessed by counting the number of annual growth rings. Tree rings did not cross-date well, neither within nor between individuals, but boundaries between likely annual rings were clearly distinct. We found a linear relationship between DBH and tree age (in years) (Age=2.11×diameter(cm)+88.93, R2=0.80), which was used to estimate the age of unsampled olive trees. The maximum estimated age (627±110 years) is among the greatest ages reported for olive trees around the world (700 years) and among the oldest trees in Mediterranean ecosystems. © 2011 Istituto Italiano di Dendrocronologia.

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Uncoupling the effects of seed predation and seed dispersal by granivorous ants on plant population dynamics

Arnan X., Molowny-Horas R., Rodrigo A., Retana J. (2012) Uncoupling the effects of seed predation and seed dispersal by granivorous ants on plant population dynamics. PLoS ONE. 7: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042869

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Secondary seed dispersal is an important plant-animal interaction, which is central to understanding plant population and community dynamics. Very little information is still available on the effects of dispersal on plant demography and, particularly, for ant-seed dispersal interactions. As many other interactions, seed dispersal by animals involves costs (seed predation) and benefits (seed dispersal), the balance of which determines the outcome of the interaction. Separate quantification of each of them is essential in order to understand the effects of this interaction. To address this issue, we have successfully separated and analyzed the costs and benefits of seed dispersal by seed-harvesting ants on the plant population dynamics of three shrub species with different traits. To that aim a stochastic, spatially-explicit individually-based simulation model has been implemented based on actual data sets. The results from our simulation model agree with theoretical models of plant response dependent on seed dispersal, for one plant species, and ant-mediated seed predation, for another one. In these cases, model predictions were close to the observed values at field. Nonetheless, these ecological processes did not affect in anyway a third species, for which the model predictions were far from the observed values. This indicates that the balance between costs and benefits associated to secondary seed dispersal is clearly related to specific traits. This study is one of the first works that analyze tradeoffs of secondary seed dispersal on plant population dynamics, by disentangling the effects of related costs and benefits. We suggest analyzing the effects of interactions on population dynamics as opposed to merely analyzing the partners and their interaction strength. © 2012 Arnan et al.

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Post-fire Management of non-serotinous pine forests.

Retana J, Arnan X, Arianoutsou M, Barbati A, Kazanis D, Rodrigo A (2012) Post-fire Management of non-serotinous pine forests. In: (Moreira F, Arianoutsou M, Corona P & De las Heras J Eds) Post-fire management and restoration of southern European forests. Managing Forest Ecosystems Series, Vol. 24. Springer. ISBN 978-94-007-2207-1. pp. 151-170.

Relevance of soil seed bank and seed rain to immediate seed supply after a large wildfire

Rodrigo A., Arnan X., Retana J. (2012) Relevance of soil seed bank and seed rain to immediate seed supply after a large wildfire. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 21: 449-458.
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Doi: 10.1071/WF11058

Resum:

We examined the density and composition of the immediate seed supply (i.e. instant potential post-fire germination from soil seed bank and off-site seed rain) after a large wildfire in a sub-Mediterranean pine forest. We also tested the effects of fire severity and distance from unburned edges on the density and composition of the seed bank and the immediate off-site seed rain. Our results showed that although seed density did not differ between them, their composition was markedly different. The soil seed bank was dominated by species from the Fabaceae family with limited dispersal mechanisms such as autochory and barochory, whereas the seed rain was mainly composed of species from the Asteraceae family with wind-dispersed seeds. These patterns were not affected either by fire severity or distance from the fire edge. The main conclusion of the study is that both the soil seed bank and the seed rain play an important role in providing seeds for immediate regeneration after a large wildfire throughout the burned area. We suggest that the role of seed rain on immediate post-fire recovery of Mediterranean plant communities might be more important than has previously been thought. However, the effective role of this group of species on the longer term should be evaluated. © IAWF 2012.

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