Cotillas M., Sabaté S., Gracia C., Espelta J.M. (2009) Growth response of mixed mediterranean oak coppices to rainfall reduction. Could selective thinning have any influence on it?. Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 1677-1683.EnllaçDoi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.07.033
Climate change is one of the major challenges for ecosystem conservation. One of the most vulnerable areas to climate change is the Mediterranean Basin which is expected to suffer important changes in temperature and precipitation in the next few decades, leading to a warmer and dryer climate. Therefore, it is necessary to determine species-specific responses to increased drought to predict possible future changes in the structure and composition of Mediterranean forests, as well as to identify appropriate management strategies to mitigate these effects. The main aim of this study has been to experimentally simulate the effects of a 15% reduction in annual rainfall on the survival and growth of two co-occurring Mediterranean oaks with contrasting leaf-habit (the evergreen Quercus ilex spp. ilex and the winter-deciduous Quercus cerrioides) and, to assess whether traditional selective thinning carried out in these mixed oak coppices (i.e. selection of one to few stems per stump) can modify the consequences of rainfall reduction. Soil moisture decreased under the rainfall reduction level while it increased in the thinned plots. Reduced rainfall did not influence tree mortality, but did lead to species-specific effects on height growth: no changes were observed in Q. ilex while height growth rate of Q. cerrioides decreased (c.a. 20%). Selective thinning improved tree growth (c.a. 50%) in stands both under natural and, and to a lesser extent, under reduced rainfall conditions. Nevertheless, the positive effects of thinning rapidly declined during our three years experiment, probably because the vigorous resprouting of thinned stumps. Our results show that the forecasted reduction in annual rainfall for the Western Mediterranean Basin can constrain the growth of some deciduous oaks in mixed oak coppices. Traditional selective thinning can increase soil moisture and encourage tree growth, thus partially mitigating this effect. However, the transient results observed in this experiment suggest the need to reconsider the intensity and the frequency of this traditional management practice in light of new climatic scenarios. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Espelta J.M., Bonal R., Sánchez-Humanes B. (2009) Pre-dispersal acorn predation in mixed oak forests: Interspecific differences are driven by the interplay among seed phenology, seed size and predator size. Journal of Ecology. 97: 1416-1423.EnllaçDoi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2009.01564.x
1. Pre-dispersal seed predation (PSP) often occurs in multi-host-predator systems (e.g. several plant species exposed to a common array of granivorous insects). However, whether the interaction among seed phenology, seed size and predator size accounts for interspecific differences in PSP remains elusive. We studied PSP in a mixed-oak forest with two oaks (the larger-seeded Quercus humilis and the smaller-seeded Q. ilex), both depredated by two acorn weevils (the smaller Curculio glandium and the larger C. elephas). 2.We intensively monitored acorn production and infestation phenology and we identified the weevil species depredating acorns by means of DNA taxonomy. The minimum acorn size required for infestation was lower for C. glandium than for C. elephas, in accordance with their different body sizes. This resulted in an earlier infestation phenology in C. glandium and the ability of this species to infest both smaller and larger acorns. Above a minimum acorn size threshold, no selection for larger acorns by weevils was observed. Initial acorn crop size was similar in the two oaks. Nonetheless, the earlier acorn phenology and the production of larger acorns in Q. humilis favoured the earlier infestation by C. glandium and the predation by both small and large weevils. Smaller acorns of Q. ilex almost excluded infestation by the larger C. elephas. Although larger acorns of Q. humilis could better survive infestation (preserve the embryo), higher PSP in this species finally resulted in a lower mature acorn crop size than in Q. ilex. Synthesis. In a multi-host-predator system, smaller-seeded species may benefit from a reduced PSP because they exclude larger granivorous insects, but also by means of a 'free-rider effect', if larger-seeded heterospecifics earlier reach a critical size to be depredated. These results also highlight the benefits of a small body size in granivorous insects to depredate seeds earlier and to forage on a wider range of seed sizes. Whether the advantage of 'being small' in this antagonistic plant-animal interaction is offset by other processes, or whether it results in a pressure towards seed and insect size reduction, deserves further attention. © 2009 British Ecological Society.
Espelta J.M., Cortés P., Molowny-Horas R., Retana J. (2009) Acorn crop size and pre-dispersal predation determine inter-specific differences in the recruitment of co-occurring oaks. Oecologia. 161: 559-568.EnllaçDoi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1394-x
The contribution of pre-dispersal seed predation to inter-specific differences in recruitment remains elusive. In species with no resistance mechanisms, differences in pre-dispersal predation may arise from differences in seed abundance (plant satiation) or in the ability of seeds to survive insect infestation (seed satiation). This study aimed to analyse the impact of pre-dispersal acorn predation by weevils in two co-occurring Mediterranean oaks (Quercus ilex and Quercus humilis) and to compare its relevance with other processes involved in recruitment. We monitored the patterns of acorn production and acorn infestation by weevils and we conducted experimental tests of acorn germination after weevil infestation, post-dispersal predation and seedling establishment in mixed forests. Monitoring and experimental data were integrated in a simulation model to test for the effects of pre-dispersal predation in recruitment. In both oaks pre-dispersal acorn infestation decreased with increasing acorn crop size (plant satiation). This benefited Q. ilex which exhibited stronger masting behaviour than Q. humilis, with almost a single and outstanding reproductive event in 6 years. Acorn infestation was more than twice as high in Q. humilis (47.0%) as in Q. ilex (20.0%) irrespective of the number of seeds produced by each species. Although germination of infested acorns (seed satiation) was higher in Q. humilis (60%) than in Q. ilex (21%), this could barely mitigate the higher infestation rate in the former species, to reduce seed loss. Conversely to pre-dispersal predation, no inter-specific differences were observed either in post-dispersal predation or seedling establishment. Our results indicate that pre-dispersal predation may contribute to differences in seed supply, and ultimately in recruitment, between co-existing oaks. Moreover, they suggest that seed satiation can barely offset differences in seed infestation rates. This serves as a warning against overemphasising seed satiation as a mechanism to overcome seed predation by insects. © Springer-Verlag 2009.
Paula S., Arianoutsou M., Kazanis D., Tavsanoglu Ç., Lloret F., Buhk C., Ojeda F., Luna B., Moreno J.M., Rodrigo A., Espelta J.M., Palacio S., Fernández-Santos B., Fernandes P.M., Pausas J.G. (2009) Fire-related traits for plant species of the Mediterranean Basin. Ecology. 90: 1420-0.EnllaçDoi: 10.1890/08-1309.1
Plant trait information is essential for understanding plant evolution, vegetation dynamics, and vegetation responses to disturbance and management. Furthermore, in Mediterranean ecosystems, changes in fire regime may be more relevant than direct changes in climatic conditions, making the knowledge of fire-related traits especially important. Thus the purpose of this data set was to compile the most updated and comprehensive information on fire-related traits for vascular plant species of the Mediterranean Basin, that is, traits related to plant persistence and regeneration after fire. Data were collected from an extensive literature review and from field and experimental observations. The data source is documented for each value. Since life history traits may vary spatially or with environmental conditions, we did not aggregate them by species; i.e., traits and species are repeated in different records if they were observed by different researchers and/or in different locations. Life history traits included in the data set are: life form, resprouting ability (after fire, after clipping, or after other disturbances that remove all the aboveground biomass), resprouting bud source, heat-stimulated germination, other germination cues, seed bank location and longevity, post-fire seedling emergence and survival, maturity age of resprouts and saplings, and seed mass. Several traits are unknown for many species; consequently, the data set reflects the state of the knowledge on the topic. However, since the ability to resprout is a trait of paramount relevance in fire-prone environments, it was considered a core trait in the data set, and thus species whose resprouting capacity was unknown were not included. Life form is also provided for all taxa. The structure of the database allows different levels of information (and accuracy) for each entry, and thus some traits may include different types of data (quantitative, semi-quantitative, or categorical) from different sources. The data set is structured in 8263 records and 11 columns, obtained from 301 published and unpublished sources of information. It includes 952 taxa determined at specific or infraspecific level, which comprise 859 species, 384 genera, and 79 families. Although this is the most comprehensive data set of fire-relevant plant traits for Mediterranean species, there is still a considerable need for observations and experiments, especially in little-studied Mediterranean areas, such as northern Africa. © 2009 by the Ecological Society of America.
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