Disturbance, regeneration and the spatial pattern of tree species in Azorean mountain forests

Abstract

Disturbance related vegetation dynamics differs with Azorean mountain forest communities, where each tree species has its own regeneration strategy. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of tree species may help us to generate hypotheses on the relation between disturbance, regeneration and spatial organization and on the possible underlying ecological mechanisms. In view of this, we asked the following questions regarding the spatial pattern of tree species: What is the spatial distribution of saplings and adults? Are there any spatial associations or exclusions between saplings and adults of the same and different species? To what extent do the disturbance regimes and regeneration strategies of each species explain its spatial pattern? Six 225 m (15×15 m) plots were placed in each of three different forest types in three Islands (Pico, Terceira and Flores). Patterns of tree individuals were analysed through Morisita’s index of dispersion (Iδ) and Iwao ω index. With the exception of Laurus azorica and Frangula azorica. saplings are in most cases aggregated. Erica azorica is the only species whose adults are aggregated at short distances. Spatial distribution is mostly random for the other species. At short distances, few strong associations or exclusions were detected. Pioneer species such as Juniperus brevifolia tend to be more aggregated due to their dependence on gaps to germinate and recruit new individuals. In fact, increasing disturbance and gap size enhances the regeneration of J. brevifolia. Primary species tend to be randomly distributed in part due to their strategy of forming seedling-sapling banks. Spatial pattern of tree species is largely explained by disturbance regimes and regeneration strategies of each species. However, factors such as habitat related patchiness, competition and dispersion limitation may also explain many of the observed patterns.

Abbreviations

Cav:

Caveiro

MA:

Morro Alto

PA1:

Pico Alto 1

PA2:

Pico Alto 2

PA3:

Pico Alto 3

SB:

Santa Bárbara

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Correspondence to R. B. Elias.

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Elias, R.B., Dias, E. & Pereira, F. Disturbance, regeneration and the spatial pattern of tree species in Azorean mountain forests. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 12, 23–30 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.12.2011.1.4

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Keywords

  • Competition
  • Elfin cloud forests
  • Juniperus brevifolia
  • Regeneration
  • Spatial distribution