Plant size and abiotic factors determine the intra-specific variation in the multi-stemmed architecture of Prunus lusitanica in the Northeast limit of its global distribution

A. Muñoz Costa, J.A. Calleja-Alarcón


Aim of study: The present work provides novel insights on factors (either intrinsic or extrinsic) that trigger sprouting in woody species living at range margins. We aim to explain the inter-individual variability in the multi-stemmed architecture of Prunus lusitanica L., an Iberian evergreen relict tree related to the Tertiary flora.

Area of study: Northeastern Mediterranean mountains of the Iberian Peninsula, the Northeast limit of the global distribution of the species.

Material and Methods: We gathered data on two modes of vegetative reproduction, basal and layering sprouts, in 288 clumps of Prunus lusitanica from four populations. We modeled and analyzed the effect of environmental factors (topography, canopy cover, soil moisture and disturbances) and plant size (diameter at breast height) on sprouting by means of Generalized Linear Model and other statistical approaches.

Main results: Plant size arises as the principal factor to explain the variability of the numbers of both types of sprouts yet it is not a trigger factor. Natural and anthropogenic disturbances promote basal and layering shoots, while tree canopy is mainly relevant for basal shoots, and slope and soil moisture are significant factors for layering shoots.

Research highlights: The multi-stemmed architecture of P. lusitanica at the Northeastern limit of its worldwide distribution is triggered by local environmental factors and disturbances. Each external factor shows different levels of influence on the variability and type of vegetative reproduction yet the intensity of the response is driven by the size of the largest trunk of each clump.

Key words: vegetative reproduction; sprouting; disturbances; woody plants; relict tree; subtropical; Iberian Peninsula.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2013223-03546