A review of the development of Mediterranean pine-oak ecosystems after land abandonment and afforestation: Are they novel ecosystems?

Efrat Sheffer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Context: Mediterranean landscapes are composed of different interacting vegetation patches. Pine and oak ecosystems form contiguous patches within these landscapes, in pure stands, or as mixed pine-oak ecosystems. During the nineteenth century, pine forest distribution in the Mediterranean Basin increased dramatically as a result of large-scale re-forestation and spontaneous forest regeneration. At the same time, secondary succession of abandoned agricultural land allowed development of pine and oak ecosystems. Consequently, a pine-oak mosaic has developed, which created opportunities for cross-colonization, i.e. species colonization from one ecosystem in the reciprocal system. Pines shed their wind-dispersed seeds and colonize Mediterranean oak vegetation. Oaks regenerate in different ecosystems, including pine forest understories. Research question: This paper reviews fire-free landscapescale dynamics of pine-oak Mediterranean mosaics and analyze how landscape-scale interactions are leading to pine-oak ecosystems by different processes. Results: Published information from the Mediterranean Basin illustrates pathways of pine-oak ecosystems formation. Using Mediterranean literature, I try to elucidate the factors that (1) control colonization potential and (2) modulate the resistance to colonization, in different habitats, land uses, and landscape settings. Conclusion: Management implications for these mixed pine-oak ecosystems are suggested. The question of whether they are novel ecosystems is discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)429-443
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of Forest Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Avi Perevolotsky and Jaime Kigel for revising the text; Gidi Ne’eman, Eric Rigolot and the organizers of MEDPINE 4 conference for the opportunity to explore these issues, in such depth; Miguel Angel de Zavala, Paloma Ruiz Benito, Cristina Armas, and Lorena Gomez-Aparicio for their help in providing comments and information about these phenomena in Spain; and two anonymous reviewers for helping me improve this paper. This work was funded by Nekudat Hen, the Israeli Science Foundation, and the Jewish National Fund Forest Authority.


  • Colonization
  • Emerging ecosystems
  • Forest regeneration
  • Land-use change
  • Landscape
  • Mediterranean
  • Novel ecosystems
  • Pinus
  • Plantations
  • Quercus
  • Succession


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