Aim For tree species, adult survival and seedling and sapling
recruitment dynamics are the main processes that determine forest
structure and composition. Thus, studying how these two life stages may
be affected by climate change in the context of other abiotic and biotic
variables is critical to understand future population trends. The aim of
this study was to assess the sustainability of cork oak (Quercus suber)
forests at the core of its distributional range under future climatic
Location Southern Spain.
Methods Using forest inventory data collected at two periods 10 years
apart, we performed a comprehensive analysis to evaluate the role of
different abiotic and biotic factors on adult survival and recruitment
Results We found that both life stages were influenced by climatic
conditions, but in different ways. Adult tree survival was negatively
impacted by warmer spring temperatures, while recruitment was positively
affected by warmer winter temperatures. Our results also revealed the
importance of soil texture as a modulator of winter precipitation
effects on adult survival. With higher winter precipitation, adult
survival increased in sandy soils and decreased in clayish soils.
Therefore, under predicted future climate scenarios of wetter winters
and warmer temperatures, the presence of cork oaks is more likely to
occur in sandy soils vs. clayish soils. Biotic conditions also affected
these life stages. We found a negative effect of heterospecific but not
conspecific trees on both adult survival and seedling recruitment.
Main conclusions Overall, the sustainability of the studied forests will
be highly dependent not only on future climatic trends, but also on
their interaction with other key factors - soil properties in particular
- that modulate the effects of climate on demographic rates.
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