Pathways for resilience in Mediterranean cork oak land use systems

V.C. Acácio, M. Holmgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Context Loss of woodlands and degradation of vegetation and soil have been described for all Mediterranean-type ecosystems worldwide. In the Western Iberian Peninsula, overexploitation of evergreen cork oak land use systems has led to soil erosion, failures in oak recruitment, and loss of forests. Degraded and dry sites are quickly colonised by pioneer heathland rockrose (Cistus spp.) shrubs forming highly persistent patches. Aims Although traditionally shrublands have been considered as a transient successional state, we present evidence that they can represent persistent alternative states to former cork oak forests. Review trends and conclusions We first describe how Mediterranean vegetation evolved in the Iberian Peninsula and the role of fire and long-term human management as main disturbances. We then discuss alternative pathways through state-and-transition models indicating the ecological and land use variables that halt cork oak regeneration and recruitment and drive vegetation transitions towards persistent shrublands. Unless concerted management actions and restoration programmes are undertaken, the cork oak land use systems will not be sustainable
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-13
JournalAnnals of Forest Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • stress-gradient hypothesis
  • eastern iberian peninsula
  • arid ecosystems
  • south-america
  • el-nino
  • regeneration
  • facilitation
  • restoration
  • persistence
  • landscapes

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