Native tree populations have been fragmented by anthropogenic disturbance worldwide, leaving them at risk from extinction. The possibility of sizable recovery of fragmented populations is a function of their dispersal, the abiotic conditions, and the biotic interactions. The relative importance of these three drivers for the recruitment rate of a fragmented population of the late-successional Fagus sylvatica L. was analysed at the landscape scale in Causse du Larzac, southern margins of the Massif Central, in the South of France. We used regression models on observational data to analyse the response of Fagus recruitment rate to the distance to the nearest mature population, to climatic and geological variables, and to variables describing biotic interactions (pine vs. grassland, light, shrub cover). Distance to the nearest F. sylvatica adult population was the most important explanatory variable. Recruitment rate was also influenced by facilitative biotic interactions with shrubs, and by the climatic conditions of the plot. Recruitment occurred at a greater distance from the nearest mature population of Fagus in pine forests than in grassland. Dispersal was the major limitation to recruitment of F. sylvatica in this landscape. The recruitment rate was then modulated by the climate and positive biotic interactions. The activity of the European jay could be of great importance for such fragmented populations, because it can lead to long-distance dispersal events and may result in a preferential dispersal towards pine forests.
- Fagus sylvatica