Nurse plants and the regeneration niche of tree seedlings in wood-pastures from Western and North-Western Romania
AbstractFacilitation is a positive interaction demonstrated to be one of the important factors shaping the regeneration niche of trees, mostly under stressful conditions which is currently studied in the frame of complex ecological networks. The protection provided by benefactor plants for tree seedlings playing the role of beneficiaries is documented mainly in arid and semi-arid habitats or in situations where herbivores’ pressure constitutes the main stressful factor for tree regeneration. One of the iconic Transylvanian landscapes is the wood-pasture, also one of the oldest agro-forestry systems to which recent forest expansion in abandoned agricultural fields or pastures is added. The proposed work represents a preliminary investigation on the association between benefactor plants, mostly spiny shrubs (Rosa canina, Crataegus monogyna, Prunus spinosa as the most frequently encountered benefactors) and tree seedlings (Quercus spp., Tilia spp., Carpinus betulus, Fraxinus angustifolia, Pyrus pyraster as most frequently encountered beneficiaries), in four different locations from North-Western and Western Romania, wood-pastures, abandoned pastures and abandoned agricultural fields under the consideration that the main stressful factor is represented by livestock grazing. Bipartite, qualitative merged network was generated depicting the interaction between beneficiaries and benefactors. Commonly used metrics were calculated: connectivity, nestedness, modularity, betweenness centrality and centralization compared to similar facilitation networks presented in the literature. Facilitation network is characterized by high nestedness (N=0.896), lack of modularity, relatively high connectance (C=0.233), features encountered in mutualistic networks also. Betweenness centrality scores highlighted the keystone benefactor and beneficiary species, while betweenness centralization score (0.192) indicates the fact that there are several species sharing the dominant position in terms of interactions. The analysis of measurement data (seedlings’ and benefactor plants’ heights, distance from focal seedlings to nearest benefactor species and orientation) showed that there is common pattern in orientation (most of the benefactor species oriented toward South or South West) also in dimensional variability (MANOVA results).
Copyright (c) 2018 Ecaterina Fodor, Ovidiu Haruta, Sorin Dorog
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