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Positive cascade effects of forest fragmentation on acorn weevils mediated by seed size enlargement

Authors

  • RAÚL BONAL,

    1. Grupo de Investigación de la Biodiversidad Genética y Cultural, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Ciudad Real, Spain
    2. Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales (ICAM)-Zoology, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain
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  • MARISA HERNÁNDEZ,

    1. Grupo de Investigación de la Biodiversidad Genética y Cultural, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Ciudad Real, Spain
    2. Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales (ICAM)-Zoology, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain
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  • JOAQUÍN ORTEGO,

    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), Madrid, Spain
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  • ALBERTO MUÑOZ,

    1. Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales (ICAM)-Zoology, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, Spain
    2. Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals (CREAF), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
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  • JOSEP M. ESPELTA

    1. Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals (CREAF), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
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Raúl Bonal, Grupo de Investigación de la Biodiversidad Genética y Cultural, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos – IREC (CSIC, UCLM, JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, E-13005 Ciudad Real, Spain. E-mail: raul.bonal@uclm.es

Abstract

Abstract.  1. Today, forest fragmentation is one of the major threats to biodiversity worldwide. In this context, fragmented populations of specialised forest organisms face an increasing risk of extinction because of factors such as local food scarcity. Nonetheless, the role of food availability may differ depending on organism size, which is expected to determine the energy requirements and mobility between fragments.

2. A field study was carried out on Curculio elephas, a forest beetle with low dispersal potential, whose larval development takes place in oak Quercus spp. acorns.

3. For a similar seed crop per tree, acorn size was larger in isolated oaks than in trees located in forest patches. Thus, fragmentation increased local food availability for C. elephas. Larger acorns enabled larval size to increase, a key fitness proxy associated with individual survival, adult size, and potential female fecundity. Indeed, the number of both adults and larvae was higher in isolated trees than in forest patches.

4. In the current scenario of increasing forest fragmentation, the survival likelihood of specialist insects may strongly depend on their ability to adapt to altered environmental conditions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report on how some forest insects may take advantage of fragmentation-mediated changes to survive in isolated trees.

5. From a conservation perspective, management policies should preserve isolated trees as a source of seeds and fauna for the natural regeneration of forest ecosystems after unproductive farmlands have been abandoned.

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