El decaimiento del alcornoque y sus consecuencias sobre la regeneración del bosque

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe predicted increase of tree decline episodes as a consequence of temperature rise could have an important impact in forest regeneration dynamics, and therefore in the future composition of forests.

A research team in the IRNAS, with the collaboration of the University of Basel (Switzerland), has studied how cork oak (Q. suber) decline can affect forest composition through changes in regeneration dynamics. Models were developed using a spatially-explicit, neighborhood approach, to explain how tree canopy and the understory interact in two mixed Mediterranean forests affected by cork oak decline.

Trees showing declining symptoms had generally a negative effect on the regeneration of the two main Quercus species in the mixed forests of Q. suber and Q. canariensis in Los Alcornocales Natural Park (Cádiz, Spain). This result suggests that the current ongoing changes in the relative abundance of tree species could alter the successional trajectories of these forests through the impacts of neighboring trees on seedling dynamics. The recruitment failure of dominant oak species in the gaps opened after Q. suber death could indirectly favor the establishment  of other coexisting woody species, such as drought-tolerant shrubs, fostering the conversion of current forests into more open systems.

The results highlight the urgent need for more information on post-mortality regeneration dynamics to predict the successional trajectories and possibilities of recovery of disturbed forest ecosystem.

Ibáñez B, Gómez-Aparicio L, Stoll P, Ávila JM, Pérez-Ramos IM, et al. (2015) A Neighborhood Analysis of the Consequences of Quercus suber Decline for Regeneration Dynamics in Mediterranean Forests. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117827. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117827

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