Manso González, Rubén
An integral model for natural regeneration of Pinus pinea L. in the Northern Plateau (Spain) = Modelo integral de regeneración natural para Pinus pinea L. en la Meseta Norte (España).
Thesis (Doctoral), E.T.S.I. Montes (UPM).
Natural regeneration is an ecological key-process that makes plant persistence possible and, consequently, it constitutes an essential element of sustainable forest management. In this respect, natural regeneration in even-aged stands of Pinus pinea L. located in the Spanish Northern Plateau has not always been successfully achieved despite over a century of pine nut-based management. As a result, natural regeneration has recently become a major concern for forest managers when we are living a moment of rationalization of investment in silviculture. The present dissertation is addressed to provide answers to forest managers on this topic through the development of an integral regeneration multistage model for P. pinea stands in the region. From this model, recommendations for natural regeneration-based silviculture can be derived under present and future climate scenarios. Also, the model structure makes it possible to detect the likely bottlenecks affecting the process. The integral model consists of five submodels corresponding to each of the subprocesses linking the stages involved in natural regeneration (seed production, seed dispersal, seed germination, seed predation and seedling survival). The outputs of the submodels represent the transitional probabilities between these stages as a function of climatic and stand variables, which in turn are representative of the ecological factors driving regeneration. At subprocess level, the findings of this dissertation should be interpreted as follows. The scheduling of the shelterwood system currently conducted over low density stands leads to situations of dispersal limitation since the initial stages of the regeneration period. Concerning predation, predator activity appears to be only limited by the occurrence of severe summer droughts and masting events, the summer resulting in a favourable period for seed survival. Out of this time interval, predators were found to almost totally deplete seed crops. Given that P. pinea dissemination occurs in summer (i.e. the safe period against predation), the likelihood of a seed to not be destroyed is conditional to germination occurrence prior to the intensification of predator activity. However, the optimal conditions for germination seldom take place, restraining emergence to few days during the fall. Thus, the window to reach the seedling stage is narrow. In addition, the seedling survival submodel predicts extremely high seedling mortality rates and therefore only some individuals from large cohorts will be able to persist. These facts, along with the strong climate-mediated masting habit exhibited by P. pinea, reveal that viii the overall probability of establishment is low. Given this background, current management –low final stand densities resulting from intense thinning and strict felling schedules– conditions the occurrence of enough favourable events to achieve natural regeneration during the current rotation time. Stochastic simulation and optimisation computed through the integral model confirm this circumstance, suggesting that more flexible and progressive regeneration fellings should be conducted. From an ecological standpoint, these results inform a reproductive strategy leading to uneven-aged stand structures, in full accordance with the medium shade-tolerant behaviour of the species. As a final remark, stochastic simulations performed under a climate-change scenario show that regeneration in the species will not be strongly hampered in the future. This resilient behaviour highlights the fundamental ecological role played by P. pinea in demanding areas where other tree species fail to persist.