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Conservation zones promote oak regeneration and shrub diversity in certified Mediterranean oak woodlands

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Author(s)

Filipe S. Dias, David L. Miller, Tiago A. Marques, Joana Marcelino, Maria C. Caldeira, J. Orestes Cerdeira, Miguel N. Bugalho

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Abstract

Mediterranean oak woodlands are ecosystems of high conservation and socio-economic value that occur in Southwestern Europe, North Africa and California. Oak regeneration failure is occurring in these ecosystems and may be endangering their long-term conservation. Most studies suggest that inadequate management practices may be contributing to oak regeneration failure. Forest certification is a voluntary type of certification, based on third-party auditing of compliance with performance-based sustainable management standards that has been expanding in forest ecosystems worldwide, including in Mediterranean oak woodlands. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the dominant certification scheme in Mediterranean oak woodlands and requires landowners to establish conservation zones in their estates. Conservation zones usually correspond to a tenth of the estate and are primarily managed for biodiversity conservation. In spite of recent studies reporting positive effects of FSC certification and conservation zones on biodiversity and forest structure in tropical regions, its effects on tree regeneration in Mediterranean oak woodlands are unknown. In this study, conducted in Southwestern Europe, we compared the abundance of cork oak (Quercus suber) regeneration and the cover, richness and diversity of Mediterranean shrublands between conservation and non-conservation zones in FSC certified cork oak woodlands. We found that in conservation zones oak regeneration was more abundant and that species richness and diversity of shrubs were significantly higher. Our results suggest that the creation of set-aside areas in cork oak woodlands, such as conservation zones, may help avert the tree regeneration crisis this ecosystem is facing.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume195
Early online date25 Jan 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

    Research areas

  • Cork oak, Distance sampling, Forest stewardship council, Mediterranean shrublands, Quercus suber, Tree regeneration

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