Quevedo L., Arnan X., Rodrigo A. (2013) Selective thinning of Arbutus unedo coppices following fire: Effects on growth at the individual and plot level. Forest Ecology and Management. 292: 56-63.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2012.12.007
In recent years, several Mediterranean forests subject to fire are becoming increasingly dominated by the resprouter species Arbutus unedo L. (strawberry tree). However, there is little information available about the management of these areas, and it is not clear if the approaches utilized for other, more abundant Mediterranean resprouter species such as Quercus ilex and Quercus cerrioides would produce similar results for A. unedo. In this study, performed in the NE Iberian Peninsula, we analyzed the effect of two post-fire treatment types, selective thinning and selective thinning plus understory clearing, on the growth of retained A. unedo resprouts and the new resprouting induced by the treatment itself. Treatment effects were analyzed at both the individual and plot level. Our results showed that, in the short term, retained resprouts on treated trees grew more in height and diameter (absolute and relative) than those on control trees, with no differences seen between treatment types. In the intermediate term, all the strawberry trees occurring on treated plots grew longer, and this growth was greater in plots that had been both thinned and cleared. New, induced resprouts were unaffected by the type of treatment applied. In contrast to other studies, we failed to find a negative relationship between the degree of induced resprouting and retained resprout growth We therefore conclude that, irrespective of understory clearing, the selective thinning of A. unedo improves coppice vertical structure. Retained resprouts grow more in diameter and will thus more rapidly become exploitable as firewood and timber. Also, the tree is kept free of dead fuel, reducing the risk of spreading fire. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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.LinkDoi: 10.1007/s00442-012-2315-y
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.
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.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.dendro.2011.02.002
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.
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.LinkDoi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042869
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.
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.
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.LinkDoi: 10.1071/WF11058
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.
Arnan X., Bosch J., Comas L., Gracia M., Retana J. (2011) Habitat determinants of abundance, structure and composition of flying Hymenoptera communities in mountain old-growth forests. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 4: 200-211.LinkDoi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2010.00123.x
1.Old-growth forests have features that endow them with an extraordinary ecological value. These forests are sources of habitat diversity and, consequently, biodiversity, which makes them a basic objective of conservation programs. Insects have been traditionally used as indicators of forest condition. 2.The aim of this study is to uncover patterns of Hymenoptera abundance and diversity, and their relationship with structural features in old-growth forests. We use pan traps to sample the community of flying Hymenoptera in two old-growth forest types (silver fir and mountain pine) with important structural differences. 3.Compared to other surveys of local Hymenoptera communities, our sampling yielded an extremely high number of species (630). 4.At the plot level, the two forest types showed important differences in family richness and diversity, but not in abundance or in species richness and diversity. However, variability in species richness was higher among pine than silver fir plots, leading to overall higher species richness in the former. 5.Species composition also differed between pine than silver fir forests, and these differences were related to important structural differences between the two forest types. 6.Canonical correspondence and multiple regression analysis yielded contrasting habitat requirements among Hymenoptera families and functional groups (bees, sawflies, parasitic wasps and predatory wasps). 7.We conclude that flying Hymenoptera communities can be used as good indicators of forest structure, habitat complexity and conservation status. © 2010 The Authors. Insect Conservation and Diversity © 2010 The Royal Entomological Society.
Arnan X., Ferrandiz-Rovira M., Pladevall C., Rodrigo A. (2011) Worker size-related task partitioning in the foraging strategy of a seed-harvesting ant species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 65: 1881-1890.LinkDoi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1197-z
Messor bouvieri is a seed-harvesting ant species in which workers forage in trails from the nest to a search area. A previous observation of seed transfer events between workers returning to the nest suggested potential task partitioning. In this study, we describe seed transportation and analyze the role of task partitioning in the foraging strategy of this species in terms of seed intake efficiency in relation to costs and benefits based on transport speed and task reliability. We assess the harvesting efficiency of task partitioning by comparing cooperative seed transport (CST) and individual seed transport (IST) events. Our results show task partitioning in the form of a sequence of transfer events among workers going from the search area to the nest. Importantly, and despite the weak worker polymorphism of this species, this sequence involved workers of different sizes, with seeds usually being passed along from smaller to larger workers. In addition, we show that small workers are better at finding seeds (spend less time finding a seed), and large workers are better at transporting them (were faster when walking back to the nest and lost fewer seeds). However, we failed to demonstrate that workers of different sizes are specialized in performing the task in which they excel. Overall, sequential CST in M. bouvieri results in a greater seed intake because seed search time decreases and task reliability increases, compared to IST. The determinants and adaptive benefits of CST are discussed. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
Arnan X., Gaucherel C., Andersen A.N. (2011) Dominance and species co-occurrence in highly diverse ant communities: A test of the interstitial hypothesis and discovery of a three-tiered competition cascade. Oecologia. 166: 783-794.LinkDoi: 10.1007/s00442-011-1919-y
The role of competitive exclusion is problematic in highly diverse ant communities where exceptional species richness occurs in the face of exceptionally high levels of behavioural dominance. A possible non-niche-based explanation is that the abundance of behaviourally dominant ants is highly patchy at fine spatial scales, and subordinate species act as insinuators by preferentially occupying these gaps-we refer to this as the interstitial hypothesis. To test this hypothesis, we examined fine-scale patterns of ant abundance and richness according to a three-tiered competition hierarchy (dominants, subdominants and subordinates) in an Australian tropical savanna using pitfall traps spaced at 2 m intervals. Despite the presence of gaps in the fine-scale abundance of individual species, the combined abundance of dominant ants (species of Iridomyrmex, Papyirus and Oecophylla) was relatively uniform. There was therefore little or no opportunity for subordinate species to preferentially occupy gaps in the foraging ranges of dominant species, and we found no relationship between the abundance of dominant ants and nondominant species richness at fine spatial scales. However, we found a negative relationship between subdominant and subordinate ants, a negative relationship between dominant and subdominant ants, and a positive relationship between dominant and subordinate ants. These results suggest that dominant species actually promote species richness by neutralizing the effects of subdominant species on subordinate species. Such indirect interactions have very close parallels with three-tiered trophic cascades in food webs, and we propose a "competition cascade" where the interactions are through a competition rather than trophic hierarchy. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.
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