Temporal trends in the enhanced vegetation index and spring weather predict seed production in Mediterranean oaks

Fernandez-Martinez M., Garbulsky M., Penuelas J., Peguero G., Espelta J.M. (2015) Temporal trends in the enhanced vegetation index and spring weather predict seed production in Mediterranean oaks. Plant Ecology. 216: 1061-1072.
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Doi: 10.1007/s11258-015-0489-1

Abstract:

The extremely year-to-year variable production of seeds (masting) is an extended plant reproductive behaviour important for forest dynamics and food webs. The dependence of these episodes of massive seed production on recently or long-term photosynthesised carbohydrates, however, remains controversial. In this paper, we explore whether vegetation (tree canopy) changes, detected using EVI as a proxy of leaf area and photosynthetic capacity, can provide a reliable estimation of seed production. To complete this analysis, we also explored the effect of weather both in the trends of EVI and in acorn crop size. To this end, we compared the trends of the EVI and acorn production over 10 years (2000–2009) in five stands of Quercus ilex L. in Barcelona (Catalonia, NE Spain). We found that acorn production was mainly driven by a combination of: (i) a minimum initial threshold in the EVI values, (ii) an increase in EVI in the 9 ± 4 months prior to reproduction, and (iii) appropriate weather conditions (low water stress) during spring. These results indicated, apparently for the first time, that reproduction in masting species could be detected and partly predicted by remotely sensed vegetative indices. Our results suggested that this particular reproductive behaviour in Mediterranean oaks was driven by a combination of two factors, i.e. good and improving vegetation conditions, as shown by a minimum initial threshold and the increase in EVI needed for large seed crops, and the need of wet weather conditions during spring. Moreover, our results fully supported recent studies that have associated short-term photosynthate production with seed production. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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