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Patterns of Abies cephalonica seedling recruitment in Mount Aenos National Park, Cephalonia, Greece

Politi, Patrizia I., Arianoutsou, Margarita, Stamou, George P.
Forest ecology and management 2009 v.258 no.7 pp. 1129-1136
Abies cephalonica, trees, seedling growth, seedlings, spatial distribution, mortality, microhabitats, forest habitats, environmental factors, growth and development, cotyledons, indigenous species, islands, population dynamics, Greece, Mediterranean region
Patterns of Abies cephalonica Loudon seedling recruitment at its westernmost geographical limit (western Greece), were studied by monitoring their emergence, survival, and establishment for up to four years in the microhabitats to which seeds are dispersed. Seedlings were monitored on 200 permanent sampling plots established in 11 different locations covering the entire strictly protected Mount Aenos National Park (Cephalonia). Annual seedling mortality rate was estimated in relation to habitat characteristics as well as to their number of cotyledons. A. cephalonica presented the typical behaviour of a masting species in the number of seedlings produced over the four years of study. Of the habitat characteristics studied, ground cover, elevation, soil depth, slope and canopy openness were the main parameters that classified seedling habitat with respect to their emergence. Seedling survival was higher in years of low seedling production. Seedlings with higher cotyledon numbers exhibited higher survival. Our data indicate that A. cephalonica is characterized by remarkable reproductive plasticity, which is expressed in the number of seedlings produced each year and those surviving with respect to its habitat characteristics. Preserving the species implies preserving its habitat. In this sense, Mount Aenos National Park may be the most important protected area for the endemic fir in view of preserving its integrity through pre-emptive management, in the light of current and future threats.