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Climate-mediated regeneration occurrence in Mediterranean pine forests: A modeling approach

Vergarechea, Marta, Calama, Rafael, Fortin, Mathieu, del Río, Miren
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.446 pp. 10-19
Pinus, climate change, climatic factors, coniferous forests, ecosystems, grasses, mature plants, models, natural regeneration, probability, soil, species diversity, stand structure, Mediterranean region, Spain
The generation of projections under different climate scenarios and stand conditions provides a useful tool to explore the consequences of climate change on ecosystem dynamics and to define possible interventions to ensure their persistence over time. Over recent decades, climate change has been particularly severe in the Mediterranean basin, where a lack of natural regeneration is one of the main limitations threatening Mediterranean forests. In this context, in order to define the main drivers affecting this process, we evaluated the occurrence of regeneration in P. pinea and P. pinaster forests, taking into account the stand-structure as well as climate conditions. The regeneration data is taken from a network of 1703 plots located on the Northern Plateau of Spain and monitored over 15 years. Through survival analysis we modeled the probability of regeneration occurrence after a time t (years since regeneration fellings were carried out) at regional level. The model was then used to simulate regeneration success under two climatic scenarios. According to the modeling results, the ability of P. pinaster to regenerate was always lower than that of P. pinea, regardless of the scenario and stand conditions. The relationship between regeneration success and presence of adult trees varies depending on the species composition. Higher probabilities of regeneration occurrence were positively associated with mixed species composition in adult trees for both species, while P. pinaster exhibited significantly lower regeneration under monospecific P. pinea adult trees. Regeneration probability was negatively associated with increasing levels of grass cover on soils. The results also pointed to the existence of climate-mediated annual regeneration occurrence, reflecting the complex interaction which exists between environmental factors and the optimum conditions for natural regeneration. The findings obtained in the present study could help us to identify problematic areas with regard to natural regeneration so that appropriate management can be defined to favor the different species in future stands.