Global change triggers shifts in forest composition, with warming and aridification being particularly threatening for the populations located at the rear edge of the species distributions. This is the case of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Mediterranean Basin where uncertainties in relation to its dynamics under these changing scenarios are still high. We analysed the relative effect of climate on the recruitment patterns of Scots pine and its interactions with local biotic and abiotic variables at different spatial scales. Number of seedlings and saplings was surveyed, and their annual shoot growth measured in 96 plots located across altitudinal gradients in three different regions in the Iberian Peninsula. We found a significant influence of climate on demography and performance of recruits, with a non-linear effect of temperature on the presence of juveniles, and a positive effect of precipitation on their survival. Abundance of juveniles of P. sylvestris that underwent their first summer drought was skewed towards higher altitudes than the altitudinal mean range of the conspecific adults and the optimum elevation for seedlings' emergence. At local level, light availability did not influence juveniles' density, but it enhanced their growth. Biotic interactions were found between juveniles and the herb cover (competition) and between the number of newly emerged seedlings and shrubs (facilitation). Results also highlighted the indirect effect that climate exerts over the local factors, modulating the interactions with the pre-existing vegetation that were more evident at more stressful sites. This multiscale approach improves our understanding of the dynamics of these marginal populations and some management criteria can be inferred to boost their conservation under the current global warming. © 2013 Benavides et al.
|Publication status||Published - 26 Mar 2013|