Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 5, pp 723–733 | Cite as

Geographical variation in population demography and life history traits of Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii) suggests a fire regime gradient across the USA–Mexico border



Plant adaptations to fire often display spatial heterogeneity associated with geographical variation in fire regime. We examined whether populations of the Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii Adams) in southern California and northern Baja, Mexico, exhibited spatial heterogeneity in cone serotiny, in other life history traits associated with fire-adaptation, and in population demographic structure, to assess a putative difference in fire regime across the USA–Mexico border. Demographic data, tree life history data, and tree ring series were used to compare the demographic structure and life history traits of three populations in southern California with three populations in northern Baja California. In Baja populations, a greater number of tree size classes were present (χ 2 = 12,589; P < 0.05), cone serotiny was more facultative (Mann–Whitney U = 58, P < 0.05), and young adult trees had a higher reproductive output (Mann–Whitney U = 2.65, P < 0.05), suggesting that a difference in fire regime between southern California and northern Baja has existed long enough (ca 8000 years) to drive microevolutionary divergence between the two sets of populations, and is not solely the result of 20th century differences in fire management policies across the international border. The transitional area between the two different fire regimes does not appear to coincide with the border itself but may lie in a zone of ecological transition south of Ensenada. The range of phenotypic variation observed within the Tecate cypress metapopulation suggests this species has the capacity to adapt to future environmental changes.


California Callitropsisforbesii Closed-cone cypress Cupressus forbesii Life history evolution Serotiny 



We thank Jim Bartel, Ibes Fabian Davila Flores, Jocelyne and Trevonte de Gouvenain, and Edelyn Ramírez Espinoza for their help in the field, and Kristin Chauvin and Katherine D’Ovidio for their help in preparing and analyzing field samples and tree cores. We thank the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service for allowing us to conduct research on federal lands and Saul Martin del Campo for allowing us to conduct research on his property. We are especially grateful to Joyce Schlachter for her logistical assistance. This manuscript benefited from discussions with Jim Bartel, Jon Keeley, Richard Minnich, and Sula Vanderplank, and from comments from three anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by grants from Chapman University, Rhode Island College, the National Science Foundation-Rhode Island Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and in-kind support from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Ensenada, Mexico.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhode Island CollegeProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Autónoma de Baja CaliforniaEnsenadaMexico

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