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Species selection for reforestations: what happens with historic local extinctions and habitat protection zones? A case study in the Cantabrian Range


Species selection for reforestations can be challenging in habitat protection zones, especially in human transformed landscapes, where nativeness of some species is not easily determined and yet is crucial for knowing whether a species can be used or not. We try to determine whether Pinus uncinata Ramond ex DC was present in the Cantabrian Range (Spain) and whether it could have disappeared recently due to anthropogenic causes. Plant morphology and needle anatomy were characterized in Pinus sylvestris L. and P. uncinata 2-year-old seedlings. An analysis of variance was used for selecting morphological markers capable of discriminating both species. These markers permit the comparison of seedlings coming from the highest zone of Puebla de Lillo relict pinewood (Cantabrian Range) with reference material from Castillo de Vinuesa (Iberian Range). This comparison was firstly made with two multivariate methods, a principal component analysis and a multivariate discriminant analysis. Subsequently, this was corroborated with the detection of a species-specific chloroplast DNA marker. The differences found between both species reflect the better adaptation of P. uncinata to typical highland environment. Several Puebla de Lillo seedlings had P. uncinata type morphology and haplotype, suggesting the presence of this species in the Cantabrian Range until recently. This discovery changes the current interpretation of the zone’s vegetation, enhancing the natural presence of highland open pinewoods. However, human activities (fire and livestock grazing) have driven them to extinction and have favoured the contemporary expansion of heathlands. Based on this P. uncinata case, we discuss how local extinctions can affect management and conservation policies negatively.

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We are grateful to A. Herrero for his comments and support. We thank J. Gordo, F.J. Tranque, G. Hernández, A. Picardo, M. Osorio, D. Álvarez, A. Moreno, P. Guzmán, V. Fernández, R.A. López, G. Seket and I. González-Doncel for their help and contributions. We would also like to thank two anonymous referees who have helped us improve the manuscript vastly with their comments. This research was funded by the Junta de Castilla y León.

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Correspondence to Luis Gil.

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Communicated by C. Ammer.

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Venturas, M., García Álvarez, S., Fajardo Alcántara, M. et al. Species selection for reforestations: what happens with historic local extinctions and habitat protection zones? A case study in the Cantabrian Range. Eur J Forest Res 132, 107–120 (2013).

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  • Highland dynamics
  • Management practices
  • Morphological markers
  • Natura 2000 network
  • Pinus sylvestris
  • Pinus uncinata