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Patterns and ecological consequences of abiotic heterogeneity in managed cork oak forests of Southern Spain

AuthorsQuilchano, Consuelo; Marañón, Teodoro ; Pérez-Ramos, Ignacio Manuel ; Noejovich, L.; Valladares Ros, Fernando ; Zavala, Miguel A.
KeywordsForest soil
Light availability
Mediterranean forest
Quercus suber
Shrub clearing
Issue Date2007
CitationEcological Research 23(1): 127-139 (2007)
AbstractSpatial heterogeneity of abiotic factors influences the structure and function of forests and must be taken into account for their conservation and sustainable management. In this study, we evaluate the heterogeneity of abiotic environmental variables in managed cork oak (Quercus suber L.) forests in southern Spain at patch, site and regional scales. The extent of spatial heterogeneity depended on the environmental variable examined and the scale considered. For example, soil Mn and P and light availability in the understorey were very heterogeneous at the regional scale, while soil N had low regional heterogeneity, but high spatial variability, at patch scale, attributed to open overstorey and grazing disturbance. There was a general trend of increasing heterogeneity with spatial scale. We also study the effects of a silvicultural practice—shrub clearing on the forest environment and its consequence for spatial heterogeneity. Shrub clearing increased understorey light and decreased its spatial heterogeneity with idiosyncratic effects on soil properties and their spatial heterogeneity at each site. Finally, we compare the heterogeneity (estimated by the coefficient of variation) obtained in these cork oak forests with a database compiled from published studies on other forest environments. The comparison revealed a remarkable extent of abiotic heterogeneity in the cork oak forests studied, suggesting that a sustainable management of these forests should combine intrinsic and human induced abiotic heterogeneity to preserve crucial ecological processes and to maintain high levels of biodiversity.
Description13 pages, 3 figures, 8 tables, 64 references.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11284-007-0343-6
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