, Volume 169, Issue 3, pp 723–731 | Cite as

The coexistence of acorns with different maturation patterns explains acorn production variability in cork oak

  • Josep Pons
  • Juli G. Pausas
Population ecology - Original research


In dry areas such as Mediterranean ecosystems, fluctuations in seed production are typically explained by resource (water) availability. However, acorn production in cork oak (Quercus suber) populations shows a very low relationship to weather. Because cork oak trees produce acorns with different maturation patterns (annual and biennial), we hypothesized that acorn production in coexisting individuals with a different dominant acorn maturation type should respond differently to climatic factors and that disaggregating the trees according to their acorn-maturation pattern should provide a more proximal relation to weather factors. We assessed acorn production variability in fragmented cork oak populations of the eastern Iberian Peninsula by counting the total number of acorns in 155 trees during an 8-year period. An initial assessment of acorn production variability in relation to weather parameters yielded very low explained variance (7%). However, after the trees were grouped according to their dominant acorn maturation pattern, weather parameters were found to account for 44% of the variability in acorn crops, with trees with annual acorns exhibiting mast fruiting in years with reduced spring frost and shorter summer droughts and trees with biennial acorns showing the opposite pattern. Thus, conditions that negatively affect annual production could be beneficial for biennial production (and vice versa). The results highlight the importance of the resource-matching hypothesis for explaining acorn production in Quercus suber and suggest that different seed maturation types within a population may allow the species to deal with highly variable weather conditions. They also emphasize the importance of understanding acorn maturation patterns for interpreting masting cycles.


Quercus suber Evergreen oaks Mediterranean woodlands Hypothesis Masting 



We thank Cristina Beseler and Aina Blasco for collaborating in the field sampling and Patricio García-Fayos for insights on an early version of manuscript. This work was funded by the European project CREOAK (QLRT-2001-01594) and the Spanish projects VARQUS (CGL2004-04325/BOS) and GRACCIE (Consolider-Ingenio2010). CEAM-UMH is supported by Generalitat Valenciana, Bancaixa, and the Spanish government (GRACCIE Consolider-Ingenio2010); CIDE is supported by Generalitat Valenciana, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the University of Valencia. The study complies with the current laws of Spain.

Supplementary material

442_2011_2244_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (157 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 156 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Universitario Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneo (CEAM–UMH)PaternaSpain
  2. 2.Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación–Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CIDE-CSIC)MontcadaSpain

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