Efficient regeneration by natural means is critical for the conservation of oak forests across Europe as it sustains their biodiversity, improves resistance to a wide array of natural and anthropogenic disturbances and considerably facilitates management and silviculture.
Integrating mechanisms of natural regeneration in forest management requires a sound understanding of the actual mechanisms of natural tree recruitment and of their consequences for the genetic structure of tree populations. The dispersal of seeds is a key stage in that process. Most European oak species share a single major seed disperser, the jay (Garrulus glandarius).
This study proposes to use hypervariable molecular markers combined with detailed field experimentation on acorn survival and performance to explore how the dispersal and caching of acorns by jays shape initial plant recruitment and the resulting spatial genetic structure of recruits in a mixed pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) woodland.
The combination of demographic and gene tic data and their analysis in a spatially explicit context make it possible to develop realistic estimates of how the fates of individual acorns translate into spatial genetic patterns across complex landscapes.
A better understanding of acorn dispersal by jays and its demo-genetic consequences for oak recruitment may have important implications for diverse research disciplines and applications including forestry practice, tree conservation genetics, landscape ecology and planning, or models of plant migration under past and anticipated climate changes.
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