Plant Ecology

, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 109–119 | Cite as

Quercus and Pinus cover are determined by landscape structure and dynamics in peri-urban Mediterranean forest patches

  • Maria Guirado
  • Joan PinoEmail author
  • Ferran Rodà
  • Corina Basnou


Successional dynamics in Mediterranean forests have been modulated by anthropogenic disturbances during thousands of years, especially in areas densely populated since ancient times. Our objective is to determine whether pine tree cover (early-successional species) and oak tree cover (late-successional species), used as a surrogate of successional stage of peri-urban fragmented forests in the Vallès lowlands (Catalonia, NE, Spain), are primarily determined by (1) climate and topography; (2) anthropogenic disturbances; (3) patch structure; or (4) patch dynamics from 1956 to 1993. Quercus spp. and Pinus spp. tree cover were separately recorded on 252 randomly selected plots of 100 m2, within forest patches ranging in size from 0.25 to 218 ha. Multiple linear regressions indicated that forest patch history is the most important variable determining oak and pine tree cover: new forest patches showed higher pine and lower oak tree cover than recently split patches (i.e. those that became fragmented from large forest areas after 1956). Patches already existing as such in 1956 (pre-existent patches) showed higher pine cover than recently split patches. Oak cover increased and pine cover decreased with increasing forest connectivity of the patch. Finally, highly frequented forests were related to high cover of pines. Climatic and topographic variables were not significant. We conclude that pine and oak cover in these peri-urban forests are mainly determined by recent patch dynamics, but also by the spatial pattern of patches. However, human-induced disturbance can modulate this as there is some evidence for pine being associated with a high human frequentation.


Anthropogenic disturbances Forest fragmentation Historical dynamics Pinus forests Patch structure Quercus forests 



This project was partly funded by Fundació Abertis. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Agència de Gestió i d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR) awarded to MG and the grant for postgraduates exchange of the Ministry of Education of Romania awarded to CB.


  1. Acherar M, Lepart J, Debussche M (1984) La colonization des friches par le pin d’Alep (Pinus halepensis Miller) en languedoc méditerranéen. Acta Oecol 5:179–189Google Scholar
  2. Barbero M, Bonin G, Loisel R, Quézel P (1990) Changes and disturbances of forest ecosystems caused by human activities in the western part of the Mediterranean basin. Vegetatio 87:151–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbero M, Loisel R, Quézel P, Richardson DM, Romane F (1998) Pines of the Mediterranean basin. In: Richardson DM (ed) Ecology and biogeography of Pinus. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 450–473Google Scholar
  4. Basnou C, Guirado M, Pino J, Rodà F (2003) Association between forest type and forest history near Barcelona (Catalonia)—a GIS approach. Contr Bot 38:135–140Google Scholar
  5. Broncano MJ, Retana J, Rodrigo A (2005) Predicting recovery of Pinus halepensis forests after a large wildfire in the northeastern Spain. Plant Ecol 180:47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burrough PA, McDonell RA (1998) Principles of geographical information systems. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Cadenasso ML, Pickett STA (2001) Effect of edge structure on the flux of species into forest interiors. Conserv Biol 15:91–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cliff AD, Ord JK (1981) Spatial process. Models and applications. Pion, NorwichGoogle Scholar
  9. Debussche M Lepart J, Dervieux A (1999) Mediterranean landscape changes: evidences from old postcards. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 8:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Deconchat M, Balent G (2001) Vegetation and bird community dynamics in fragmented coppice forests. Forestry 74:105–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deutschewitz K, Lausch A, Kühn I, Klotz S (2003) Native and alien plant species richness in relation to spatial heterogeneity on a regional scale in Germany. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 12:299–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Di Pasquale G, Di Martino P, Mazzoleni S (2004) Forest history in the Mediterranean region. In: Mazzoleni S, di Pasquale G, Mulligan M, di Martino P, Rego F (eds) Recent dynamics of the Mediterranean vegetation and landscape. Wiley, Chichester, pp 13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Didham RK, Lawton JH (1999) Edge structure determines the magnitude of changes in microclimate and vegetation structure in tropical forest fragments. Biotropica 31:17–30Google Scholar
  14. Digital Climatic Atlas of Catalonia (2001)
  15. Espelta JM, Riba M, Retana J (1995) Patterns of seedling recruitment in West-Mediterranean Quercus ilex forests influenced by canopy development. J Veg Sci 6:465–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fortin MJ, Drapeau P, Legendre P (1989) Spatial autocorrelation and sampling design in plant ecology. Vegetatio 83:209–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibb H, Hochuli F (2002) Habitat fragmentation in an urban environment: large and small fragments support different arthropod assemblages. Biol Conserv 106:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gil L, Gordo J Alia R Catalán G, Pardos JA (1990) Pinus pinaster Aiton en el paisaje vegetal de la Península Ibérica. Ecología Fuera de Serie 1:469–496Google Scholar
  19. Gilliam FS, Turrill NL, Bethadams M (1995) Herbaceous-layer and overstorey species in clear-cut and mature central Appalachian hardwood forests. Ecol Appl 5:947–955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giovannini G, Piussi P, Salbitano F (1992) Ecology of vegetative regeneration after coppicing in machia stands in central Italy. Vegetatio 99–100:331–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gómez JM (2003) Spatial patterns in long-distance dispersal of Quercus ilex acorns by jays in a heterogeneous landscape. Ecography 26:573–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gondard H, Romane F, Grandjanny M, Li J, Aronson J (2001) Plant species diversity changes in abandoned chestnut (Castanea sativa) groves in southern France. Biodivers Conserv 10:189–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gracia C, Burriel JA, Ibáñez JJ, Mata T, Vayreda J (2000) Inventari Ecològic i Forestal de Catalunya. Regió Forestal no 5. CREAF, BellaterraGoogle Scholar
  24. Gracia M, Retana J, Roig P (2002) Mid-term successional patterns after fire of mixed pine–oak forests in NE Spain. Acta Oecol 23:405–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grove AT (1996) The historical context: before 1850. In: Brandt CJ, Thornes JB (eds) Mediterranean desertification and land use. Wiley, New York, pp 13–28Google Scholar
  26. Guirado M (2002) Biodiversitat de plantes vasculars en boscos fragmentats a la plana del Vallès. MSc Thesis. Autonomous University of Barcelona, BellaterraGoogle Scholar
  27. Guirado M, Pino J, Rodà F (2006) Understory plant species richness and composition in metropolitan forest archipelagos: effects of patch size, adjacent land use and distance to the edge. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:50–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hobbs RJ (1988) Species richness of urban forest patches and implication for urban landscape diversity. Landsc Ecol 1:141–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Legendre P (2000) Program Mod_t_test. Departement de sciences biologiques. Université de Montreal.
  30. Legendre P, Dale MRT, Fortin MJ, Gurevitch J, Hohn M, Myers D (2002) The consequence of spatial structure for the design and analysis of ecological field surveys. Ecography 25:601–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lepart J, Debussche M (1992) Human impact on landscapes patterning: Mediterranean examples. In: Hansen AJ, di Castri F (eds) Landscape boundaries, consequences for biotic diversity and ecological flows. Springer, New York, pp 76–106Google Scholar
  32. Marull J, Mallarach JM (2005) A GIS methodology for assessing ecological connectivity: application to the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. Landsc Urban Plan 71:243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McClanahan TR (1986a) The effect of seed source on primary succession in a forest ecosystem. Vegetatio 65:175–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McClanahan TR (1986b) Seed dispersal from vegetation islands. Ecol Modell 32:301–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McClanahan TR, Wolfe RW (1993) Accelerating forest succession in a fragmented landscape: the role of birds and perches. Conserv Biol 7:280–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Morla C (1993) Significación de los pinares en el paisaje vegetal de la Península Ibérica. In: Silva J, Vega G (eds) I Congreso Forestal Español: Ponencias y comunicaciones, PontevedraGoogle Scholar
  37. Naveh Z (1975) The evolutionary significance of fire in the Mediterranean region. Vegetatio 29:199–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ninyerola M, Pons X, Roure JM (2000) A methodological approach of climatological modelling of air temperature and precipitation through GIS techniques. Int J Climatol 20:1823–1841CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pauchard A, Alaback PB (2004) Influence of elevation, land use and landscape context on patterns of alien plant invasions along roadsides in protected areas of south-central Chile. Conserv Biol 18:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Petit S, Griffiths L, Smart SS, Smith GM, Stuart RC, Wright SM (2004) Effects of area and isolation of woodland patches on herbaceous plant species richness across Great Britain. Landsc Ecol 19:463–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pino J, Font X, Carbó J, Jové M, Pallarès L (2005) Large-scale correlates of alien plant invasion in Catalonia (NE of Spain). Biol Conserv 122:339–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pons X (2000) MiraMon. Sistema d’Informació Geogràfica i software de Teledetecció. Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals (CREAF), Bellaterra.
  43. Quézel P, Barbero M (1992) Le Pin d’Alep et les espèces voisines: répartition et caractères écologiques généraux, sa dynamique récente en France méditerranéenne. Forêt Méditerranéenne 13:158–170Google Scholar
  44. Retana J, Espelta JM, Gracia M, Riba M (1999) Seedling recruitment. In: Rodà F, Retana J, Gracia CA, Bellot J (eds) Ecology of Mediterranean evergreen oak forests. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 89–101Google Scholar
  45. Romane F, Terradas J (1992) Quercus ilex L. ecosystems, function dynamics and management. Preface. Vegetatio 99–100:137–145Google Scholar
  46. Rouget M, Richardson DM, Lavorel S, Vayreda J, Gracia C, Milton SJ (2001) Determinants of distribution of six Pinus species in Catalonia, Spain. J Veg Sci 12:491–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ruíz de la Torre J (1990) Distribución y características de las masas forestales españolas. Ecología 1:11–30Google Scholar
  48. Taylor PD, Fahrig L, Henein K, Merrian G (1993) Connectivity is a vital element of landscape structure. Oikos 68:571–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Terradas J (1999) Holm oak and holm oak forests: an introduction. In: Rodà F, Retana J, Gracia CA, Bellot J (eds) Ecology of Mediterranean evergreen oak forests. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 3–14Google Scholar
  50. Thuiller W, Vayreda J, Pino J, Sabaté S, Lavorel S, Gracia C (2003) Large-scale environmental correlates of forest tree distribution in Catalonia (NE Spain). Glob Ecol Biogeogr 12:313–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Verdú JR, Manuel BC, Galante E (2000) Conservation strategy of a nature reserve in Mediterranean ecosystems: the effects of protection from grazing on biodiversity. Biodivers Conserv 9:1707–1721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. With KA, Gardner RH, Turner MG (1997) Landscape connectivity and population distribution in heterogeneous environments. Oikos 78:151–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zavala MA, Zea, E (2004) Mechanisms maintaining biodiversity in Mediterranean pine-oak forests: insights from a spatial simulation model. Plant Ecol 171:197–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zavala MA, Espelta JM, Retana J (2000) Constraints and trade-offs in Mediterranean plant communities: the case of Holm oak—Aleppo pine forests. Bot Rev 66:119–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Guirado
    • 1
  • Joan Pino
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ferran Rodà
    • 1
    • 3
  • Corina Basnou
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF)Autonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Plant Biology DepartmentUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Unit of Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Biology and EcologyAutonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

Personalised recommendations