The ground plot counting method: A valid and reliable assessment tool for quantifying seed production in temperate oak forests?
Publication date: 15 December 2018
Source: Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 430
Author(s): Laura Touzot, Marie-Claude Bel-Venner, Marlène Gamelon, Stefano Focardi, Vincent Boulanger, François Débias, Sylvain Delzon, Sonia Saïd, Eliane Schermer, Eric Baubet, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Samuel Venner
Masting, or mast-seeding, defined as a synchronized and highly variable seed production from year-to-year within a population of plants, is one of the most common example of pulsed resources in terrestrial ecosystems. In oaks, the dramatic fluctuations of acorn production impact its reproductive success and regeneration, the dynamics of a large diversity of seed consumers that rely on it, and, by cascade effects, the dynamics of the entire forest community. However, reproductive effort is difficult to quantify and there is therefore an urgent need of a reliable assessment of the dynamic of acorn production based on a low-cost, unbiased, and robust tool. One of the most commonly used method, the “visual on-tree” method, is very easy and quick to carry out, but is biased under high seed production or when branches are difficult to see. We here assessed the robustness of an alternative method, the “ground plot” (GP), based on a unique annual ground survey after peak of acorn fall, which has not been tested so far. We compared this method at tree and site levels (10 forests throughout France) with the costly and time-consuming trap acorn collection (TNR) method (used here as a reference method). We show that results from the GP method closely matched with those obtained using the TNR method, which demonstrates the efficiency and robustness of the GP method at both tree and forest site levels. Despite some limitations in specific environmental contexts we review, this GP method offers a powerful tool to quantify acorn production and should be deployed to understand mechanisms underlying oak masting and/or to assess its ecological or economic consequences.
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