Plant Ecology

, Volume 187, Issue 1, pp 109–125 | Cite as

Hybrid Zones Between Two European Oaks: a Plant Community Approach

  • Rut Sánchez de DiosEmail author
  • Marta Benito-Garzón
  • Helios Sainz-Ollero
Original Paper


Phenomena of hybridization can affect the ecology and evolution of the species involved in the process, as well as their communities. Although numerous papers focus upon the problem of taxonomy, few of these have attempted to study hybrid zones in relation to the analysis of their communities. On the Iberian Peninsula, hybridization phenomena among different oak species are frequent. It is, however, between Quercus faginea Lam. and Quercus pubescens Willd. where the most noteworthy hybridization phenomenon occurs. In this respect, we are familiar with the existence of different introgression levels but we are unaware of whether these hybrids are the transitory result of the interspecific genetic flow or whether these are maintained by means of extrinsic selection processes.

Study of plant communities’ flora and environment might shed light upon this issue. Comparison between plant communities dominated by one of the parental species and those dominated by individuals of hybrid origin might enable us to establish the presence or absence of an environment that is potentially selective in favour of the hybrids. Thus the possible existence of extrinsic selection. Furthermore, this information will help us to understand plant community distribution in an area␣that is difficult to interpret.

To this purpose, we used multivariate ordination techniques (DCA and CCA) based upon a total of 395 floristic releves covering the whole range of the parental species on the Iberian Peninsula and upon climatic and edaphic variables for each of these releves. We also compared the groups obtained in relation to floristic similarity (Jaccard index), richness and diversity (Shannon–Weaver index).

Forests associated with Quercus pubescens are related to heavy summer precipitation, whereas Quercus faginea forests correspond to lower values of this variable and higher ones for continentality. Between both formations, there is a broad hybrid zone, with diffused borders that are related to an environmental gradient of Mediterranean influence. In this region, two types of forest communities were distinguished, which enabled us to divide the hybrid zones into two territories.

Our results allowed us to locate the hybrid zone in an ecotone. The differentiation between habitats appears to indicate models of ecological selection. These models require, by definition, the presence of an environmental gradient between the parental zones. We are, however, aware of the need for future experiments in order to establish whether the hybrids are better adapted than the parental species. Only with availability of all this information can intrinsic selection be rejected.


Canonical Correspondence Analysis Iberian Peninsula Quercus faginea Quercus pubescens 



Detrended Correspondence Analysis


Canonical Correspondence Analysis


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Part of the map appearing in Fig. 2 was taken from the bibliographic review by J.C. Moreno Sainz. We wish to thank Felipe Domínguez Lozano, Francisco Martín Azcárate and David Galicia Herbada for their valuable suggestions. We also wish to acknowledge the efforts of two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rut Sánchez de Dios
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marta Benito-Garzón
    • 1
  • Helios Sainz-Ollero
    • 1
  1. 1.Botany Unit, Science FacultyAutónoma University of MadridMadridSpain

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