More than just drought: complexity of recruitment patterns in Mediterranean forests.

Abstract:

:Understanding community dynamics during early life stages of trees is critical for the prediction of future species composition. In Mediterranean forests drought is a major constraint for regeneration, but likely not the only factor determining the observed spatial patterns. We carried out a sowing experiment aimed at identifying main filters during seed-seedling transition. Specifically, we studied seed fate (predation, fungi infection, emergence) and subsequent seedling performance (mortality during the first summer and overall recruitment after 2 years) of four co-occurring Mediterranean tree species (Quercus ilex, Quercus faginea, Juniperus thurifera, Pinus nigra). We related these processes to the dominant species composition, microhabitat heterogeneity, herb cover and seed mass. The identity of the dominant species in the forest canopy was more important for recruitment than the forest canopy being dominated by conspecific vs. heterospecific species. The patterns we found suggest that biotic interactions such as facilitation (lower mortality under the canopies) and herb competition (during emergence of J. thurifera) are relevant during recruitment. Moreover, our results pointed to ontogenetic conflicts regarding the seed mass of Q. faginea and to density-dependent seed mortality for Q. ilex, rarely described in Mediterranean ecosystems. We propose that our study species experience population growth in forests dominated by heterospecifics where the recruitment success depends on habitat heterogeneity and on moderated biotic and abiotic stresses created by each species. Our results reveal patterns and mechanisms involved in recruitment constraints that add complexity to the well-known drought-related processes in Mediterranean ecosystems.

journal_name

Oecologia

journal_title

Oecologia

authors

Granda E,Escudero A,Valladares F

doi

10.1007/s00442-014-3064-x

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

2014-12-01 00:00:00

pages

997-1007

issue

4

eissn

0029-8549

issn

1432-1939

journal_volume

176

pub_type

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