, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 978-991
Date: 10 Aug 2010

Drought-Induced Multifactor Decline of Scots Pine in the Pyrenees and Potential Vegetation Change by the Expansion of Co-occurring Oak Species

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Episodes of drought-induced tree dieback have been recently observed in many forest areas of the world, particularly at the dry edge of species distributions. Under climate change, those effects could signal potential vegetation shifts occurring over large geographical areas, with major impacts on ecosystem form and function. In this article, we studied the effect of a single drought episode, occurred which in summer 2005, on a Scots pine population in central Pyrenees (NE Spain). Our main objective was to study the environmental correlates of forest decline and vegetation change at the plot level. General and generalized linear models were used to study the relationship between canopy defoliation, mortality and recruitment, and plot characteristics. A drought-driven multifactor dieback was observed in the study forest. Defoliation and mortality were associated with the local level of drought stress estimated at each plot. In addition, stand structure, soil properties, and mistletoe infection were also associated with the observed pattern of defoliation, presumably acting as long-term predisposing factors. Recruitment of Scots pine was low in all plots. In contrast, we observed abundant recruitment of other tree species, mostly Quercus ilex and Q. humilis, particularly in plots where Scots pine showed high defoliation and mortality. These results suggest that an altitudinal upwards migration of Quercus species, mediated by the dieback of the currently dominant species, may take place in the studied slopes. Many rear-edge populations of Scots pine sheltered in the mountain environments of the Iberian Peninsula could be at risk under future climate scenarios.

Author contributions

Lucía Galiano conceived of or designed study, performed research, analyzed data, contributed new methods or models, wrote the paper; Jordi Martínez-Vilalta conceived of or designed study, contributed new methods or models; Francisco Lloret conceived of or designed study, contributed new methods or models.