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Can seed production and restricted dispersal limit recruitment in Pinus pinaster Aiton from the Spanish Northern Plateau?

Libertad Juez, Santiago C. González-Martínez, Nikos Nanos, Ana I. de-Lucas, Cristóbal Ordóñez, Carlos del Peso, Felipe Bravo
Forest ecology and management 2014 v.313 pp. 329-339
Pinus pinaster, basins, cropland, data collection, dry forests, fecundity, female fertility, females, managers, models, natural regeneration, plateaus, rain, seed dispersal, seed trees, seeds, traps, wind speed, Spain
Natural regeneration faces increasing difficulties in dry forests from the Mediterranean basin, including for normally well-regenerating species such as maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Aiton). In this paper, we studied female fertility, seed dispersal and spread rates in P. pinaster from the Spanish Northern Plateau, where natural regeneration failure is a main concern for forest managers. For this purpose we periodically collected data from seed traps and trees located at two core locations across several years. We found significant variation in interannual cone production, with the best seed trees being the same across years. In addition, we found highly skewed distributions of female reproductive effort and large fertility differences across stands located few kilometres away. Annual seed dispersal kernels fitted lognormal or 2Dt models depending on the stand analysed, with median dispersal distances between 14 and 25m. Kernels fitted for maximum dispersal periods showed an outstanding intraseasonal variation of median dispersal distances, from 10 to 54m, in association to variable patterns of rainfall and maximum wind speed. The amount of seed produced appeared to be enough to guarantee the natural regeneration of the stands during the typical 20-year regeneration period. Colonisation simulations concluded that Mediterranean maritime pine has a notable dispersion capacity, which is strongly influenced by levels of fecundity and, especially, by the number and frequency of long-distance dispersal events. The latter play a key role in tree dispersion processes through enlarging the occupied area and fostering the invasion of abandoned crop land.