Optimizing nursery and plantation methods to grow Cedrela odorata seedlings in tropical dry agroecosystems

Andrés P., Salgado C., Espelta J.M. (2011) Optimizing nursery and plantation methods to grow Cedrela odorata seedlings in tropical dry agroecosystems. Agroforestry Systems. 83: 225-234.
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Doi: 10.1007/s10457-011-9404-5

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Cedrela odorata (Spanish cedar) is a valuable multi-purpose tree which Central American rural communities and farmers give priority to introducing in pastures and home gardens. In order to propose realistic methods for C. odorata production in local nurseries in the dry tropical region of Nicaragua, we studied: (a) the ability of locally collected C. odorata seeds to germinate, (b) seed response to storage under ambient conditions or under cold storage, (c) the effects of irradiance and watering during cultivation on seedling morphology and post-transplantation survival, and (d) the effects of competition from grasses on C. odorata seedlings transplanted to pastures. Seed germination ranged from 55 to 66% and remained constant after 6 months of storage under ambient conditions or cold storage. C. odorata seedling morphology was sensitive to irradiation and watering in the nursery growing period. Deep shade reduced seedling biomass and leafiness and increased specific leaf area and root-to-shoot ratio. Water shortage increased root mass ratio and root-to-shoot ratio and decreased leaf mass ratio. Post-transplantation success was favored by weeding, and was the highest for seedlings grown under deep shade and water restrictions. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Complex selection on life-history traits and the maintenance of variation in exaggerated rostrum length in acorn weevils

Bonal R., Espelta J.M., Vogler A.P. (2011) Complex selection on life-history traits and the maintenance of variation in exaggerated rostrum length in acorn weevils. Oecologia. 167: 1053-1061.
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Doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2036-7

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Trophic interactions can trigger the development of exaggerated specialized characters and promote morphological diversification. For example, acorn weevils (genus Curculio) present strikingly long rostrums, which are used by females to perforate oviposition holes through the seed coat. Species exhibiting longer rostrums are known to exploit larger acorns, and therefore rostrum length is thought to be subject to selection to match the preferred acorn type. However, rostrum length is strongly correlated with body size, and morphological divergence could result from either selection on rostrum length for optimal food exploitation or from other pressures acting on body size. We collected infested acorns at oak forests where the large Curculio elephas and the small-bodied Curculio glandium co-occur. There were no interspecific differences in adult female body size to rostrum length allometric relationships, and rostrum length is equally correlated with body size in either species. MtDNA-based species identification showed that C. glandium larvae were present within acorns of all sizes, whereas C. elephas larvae were restricted to acorns above a minimum size, irrespective of oak species. Hence, exploitation of large acorns can hardly have triggered rostrum enlargement, as the small sized C. glandium adults (with short rostrums) could perforate and oviposit in both small and large acorns. Rather, increased rostrum length is probably a by-product of the larger body sizes of individuals emerging from bigger acorns, which allow increased larval size and enhance larval survival likelihood. Summarizing, when exaggerated feeding traits co-vary with other body features, interspecific morphological variability may result from contrasting selective pressures acting on these correlated characters. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

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Non-fire induced seed release ina weakly serotinous pine: Climatic factors, maintenance costs or both?

Espelta J.M., Arnan X., Rodrigo A. (2011) Non-fire induced seed release ina weakly serotinous pine: Climatic factors, maintenance costs or both?. Oikos. 120: 1752-1760.
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Doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0706.2011.19570.x

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The advantages of canopy seed retention (serotiny) for plants inhabiting fire-prone ecosystems are well documented. However, very few species are completely serotinous and non-fire induced opening of serotinous fruits is commonly observed (weak serotiny). Two non-mutually exclusive causes are envisaged to contribute to this process: mechanical changes in serotinous fruits mediated by climatic conditions (e.g. drought) or the costs of maintenance for the plant of these long-lasting structures. However, their relative contribution to the spontaneous opening of serotinous fruits remains elusive as well as the consequences for the build-up of the canopy seed bank and inter-individual differences in serotiny. In this study we monitored the dynamics of cone production and cone opening in the weakly serotinous Pinus halepensis for five years (2004-2008), including two severe drought episodes (2005, 2006). Drought decreased the production of conelets, increased the abortion of immature cones, reduced the seed quality in the cohorts of cones produced during these years, and increased the opening of serotinous cones. During the first drought episode, a higher proportion of serotinous cones opened in those pines bearing a larger crop of younger cones. This suggests that not only passive changes induced by drought but also competition among cones for resources (e.g. water) might be involved in this process. The opening of serotinous cones in pines bearing more cones made inter-individual differences in the size of the canopy cone bank to narrow or even to reverse from 2004 to 2008. These results may help to understand the decrease in serotiny when pines grow and accumulate more cones and the large inter-individual variability in the degree of serotiny observed in P. halepensis forests. In addition, the negative effects of drought episodes for the size of the canopy cone bank and the seeds contained can be an unexplored cause of post-fire regeneration constraint. © 2011 The Authors.

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Forest Fires.at the crossroad between devastation and landscape improvement.

Espelta JM (2011) Forest Fires.at the crossroad between devastation and landscape improvement. PAISEA 16: 101-105.

Disturbance intensity and seasonality affect the resprouting ability of the neotropical dry-forest tree Acacia pennatula: Do resources stored below-ground matter?

Peguero G., Espelta J.M. (2011) Disturbance intensity and seasonality affect the resprouting ability of the neotropical dry-forest tree Acacia pennatula: Do resources stored below-ground matter?. Journal of Tropical Ecology. 27: 539-546.
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Doi: 10.1017/S0266467411000290

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Many plant species in tropical dry forests partly base their ability to persist after disturbance on resprouting. Yet little is known if this ability can be affected by the intensity and seasonality of disturbance and whether the amount of resources (starch, N, P) stored in the taproot may constrain this response. We investigated resprouting after experimental clipping or burning, applied before or after the dry season and repeatedly in Acacia pennatula individuals in wooded rangelands of North-West Nicaragua. Each treatment was applied to 12 trees and replicated in six plots. One year after the onset of the experiment, survival and biomass recovery were significantly lower in burned than in clipped individuals (78% ± 4% and 75.3 ± 8.0 g vs. 94% ± 2% and 79.1 ± 6.8 g; mean ± SE). Whatever the disturbance applied, trees disturbed after the dry season significantly showed the lowest survival, growth and concentration of N and P. These results suggest that resprouting in dry tropical species may be constrained by intense disturbances (e.g. burning) but especially if they occur towards the end of the dry season. This phenological constraint could be due to the reduced availability of N and P as this dry season progresses. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.

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Increased drought reduces acorn production in Quercus ilex coppices: Thinning mitigates this effect but only in the short term

Sánchez-Humanes B., Espelta J.M. (2011) Increased drought reduces acorn production in Quercus ilex coppices: Thinning mitigates this effect but only in the short term. Forestry. 84: 73-82.
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Doi: 10.1093/forestry/cpq045

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In order to explore the effects of climate change on Mediterranean regenerating forests, we experimentally assessed the effects of increased drought on the reproductive attributes of Quercus ilex over a 4-year period (2005-2008). We also investigated whether traditional thinning (selection of one to a few stems per stump) could mitigate the consequences of increased drought in oak coppices. Increased drought reduced the number of reproductive trees, mean number of female flowers produced and acorn crop size, although most of these effects appeared only in the last 2 years of the experiment. In a different way, thinning enhanced all reproductive attributes, but its main effects were transient and covered only 1 or 2 years after the application of the treatments. Our results indicate that a moderate reduction in rainfall (15 per cent) reduces the reproductive ability of Q. ilex. This may have long-term negative consequences for recruitment as well as for the fauna feeding on acorns. Although traditional thinning may mitigate the consequences of increased drought, it has a remarkably short-term effect. This highlights the need to re-examine traditional forestry practices as potential adaptive strategies for coping with climate change in Mediterranean regenerating forests. © Institute of Chartered Foresters, 2010. All rights reserved.

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Trade-offs between vegetative growth and acorn production in Quercus lobata during a mast year: The relevance of crop size and hierarchical level within the canopy

Sánchez-Humanes B., Sork V.L., Espelta J.M. (2011) Trade-offs between vegetative growth and acorn production in Quercus lobata during a mast year: The relevance of crop size and hierarchical level within the canopy. Oecologia. 166: 101-110.
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Doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1819-6

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The concept of trade-offs between reproduction and other fitness traits is a fundamental principle of life history theory. For many plant species, the cost of sexual reproduction affects vegetative growth in years of high seed production through the allocation of resources to reproduction at different hierarchical levels of canopy organization. We have examined these tradeoffs at the shoot and branch level in an endemic California oak, Quercus lobata, during a mast year. To determine whether acorn production caused a reduction in vegetative growth, we studied trees that were high and low acorn producers, respectively. We observed that in both low and high acorn producers, shoots without acorns located adjacent to reproductive shoots showed reduced vegetative growth but that reduced branch-level growth on acorn-bearing branches occurred only in low acorn producers. The availability of local resources, measured as previous year growth, was the main factor determining acorn biomass. These findings show that the costs of reproduction varied among hierarchical levels, suggesting some degree of physiological autonomy of shoots in terms of acorn production. Costs also differed among trees with different acorn crops, suggesting that trees with large acorn crops had more available resources to allocate for growth and acorn production and to compensate for immediate local costs of seed production. These findings provide new insight into the proximate mechanisms for mast-seeding as a reproductive strategy. © 2010 The Author(s).

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Interspecific differences in sapling performance with respect to light and aridity gradients in mediterranean pine-oak forests: Implications for species coexistence

Zavala M.A., Espelta J.M., Caspersen J., Retana J. (2011) Interspecific differences in sapling performance with respect to light and aridity gradients in mediterranean pine-oak forests: Implications for species coexistence. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 41: 1432-1444.
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Doi: 10.1139/x11-050

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The relative abundance of two codominant Mediterranean tree species, shade-tolerant Quercus ilex L. and shade-intolerant Pinus halepensis Mill., is inversely correlated along aridity gradients, but this pattern is not explained by seedling responses to water or light availability, suggesting that subsequent life history stages may explain forest composition. To test this hypothesis, we calibrated statistical models of sapling growth and height-diameter allometry as functions of light availability and climatic variation as well as models of sapling mortality as a function of growth history. Contrary to the expectation of a sun-shade growth trade-off, P. halepensis grew faster than Q. ilex saplings at both low and high light levels. Low precipitation and aridity suppressed sapling growth rates, but no evidence of a shade-drought growth trade-off was found either. Pinus halepensis sapling mortality was strongly growth dependent, exhibiting high mortality rates at low growth, but the mortality of Q. ilex saplings was not. Height-diameter allometric variation was higher in low-than in high-light environments and was more pronounced with respect to changes in light than climatic water. Our results suggest that interspecific differences in sapling mortality and plasticity, rather than growth, may control species distributions at the mesic end of the aridity gradient. © NRC Research Press 2011.

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