Facilitation, restoration, and the continuum mutualism-antagonism

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Pedro J. Garrote, Antonio R. Castilla, Jose M. Fedriani

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Species interactions can become either positive or negative depending on the costs and benefits for the involved partners. For instance, nurse-beneficiary plant interactions frequently used on restoration are essentially facilitative interactions. However, these interactions can turn into competitive ones depending on the ecological context (e.g. plant species, and sites). Therefore, to detect potential changes in the position of these interactions within the continuum mutualism-antagonism is decisive for successful restoration of disturbed habitats (e.g. old-fields). To illustrate how shifts in the outcome of plant-plant interactions might alter the success of revegetation campaigns, we used the system comprised by the Mediterranean dwarf palm (Chamaerops humilis) and seven common woody species (Asparagus aphyllus, Daphne gnidium, Olea europaea var. sylvestris, Phillyrea angustifolia, Pistacia lentiscus, Pyrus bourgaeana, and Rubus ulmifolius). To this end, we conducted seed predation and sowing field experiments to compare the performance (seed survival, seedling emergence, survival, and recruitment) in two contrasting microhabitats (beneath palm and open interspaces) in two old-fields of Iberian Peninsula. Seed survival was up to 193 times (P. angustifolia) greater in open interspaces regarding beneath dwarf palm, but seedling survival and recruitment were up to 19 times (A. aphyluus) greater beneath dwarf palm regarding open interspaces. None woody species showed greater seedling survival or recruitment in open interspaces regarding beneath dwarf palm. Importantly, we found strong inter-individual palm variation in their effect on woody performance which also changed throughout life-stages and sites (Fig. 1). We highlight the potential of the Mediterranean dwarf palm for ecological restoration by facilitating woody plants, although it must be used carefully since facilitative effects were species-specific and also depended on life-stages. We encourage restorers to position nurse-beneficiary interactions along the continuum mutualism-antagonism for successful restoration actions.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program