Colonization Pattern of Abandoned Croplands by Quercus pyrenaica in a Mediterranean Mountain Region
Pérez-Luque, Antonio J.
Bonet-García, Francisco J.
SubjectMountain abandoned croplands
Sierra Nevada (Granada, España)
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Land abandonment is a major global change driver in the Mediterranean region, where anthropic activity has played an important role in shaping landscape configuration. Understanding the woodland expansion towards abandoned croplands is critical to develop effective management strategies. In this study, we analyze the colonization pattern of abandoned croplands by Quercus pyrenaica in the Sierra Nevada mountain range (southern Spain). We aimed to assess differences among populations within the rear edge of the Q. pyrenaica distribution. For this purpose, we characterized (i) the colonization pattern of Q. pyrenaica, (ii) the structure of the seed source (surrounding forests), and (iii) the abundance of the main seed disperser (Eurasian jay, Garrulus glandarius). The study was conducted in five abandoned croplands located in two representative populations of Q. pyrenaica located on contrasting slopes. Vegetation plots within three habitat types (mature forest, edge-forest and abandoned cropland) were established to compute the abundance of oak juveniles. The abundance of European jay was determined using data of bird censuses (covering 7 years). Our results indicate that a natural recolonization of abandoned croplands by Q. pyrenaica is occurring in the rear edge of the distribution of this oak species. Oak juvenile abundance varied between study sites. Neither the surrounding-forest structure nor the abundance of jays varied significantly between study sites. The differences in the recolonization patterns seem to be related to differences in the previous- and post-abandonment management.