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The North Atlantic Oscillation synchronises fruit production in western European forests

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Weather and its lagged effects have been associated with interannual variability and synchrony of fruit production for several tree species. Such relationships are used often in hypotheses relating interannual variability in fruit production with tree resources or favourable pollinating conditions and with synchrony in fruit production among sites through the Moran effect (the synchronisation of biological processes among populations driven by meteorological variability) or the local availability of pollen. Climatic teleconnections, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), representing weather packages, however, have rarely been correlated with fruit production, despite often being better predictors of ecological processes than is local weather. The aim of this study was to test the utility of seasonal NAO indices for predicting interannual variability and synchrony in fruit production using data from 76 forests of Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Picea abies, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Quercus petraea, and Q. robur distributed across central Europe. Interannual variability in fruit production for all species was significantly correlated with seasonal NAO indices, which were more prominently important predictors than local meteorological variables. The relationships identified by these analyses indicated that proximal causes were mostly responsible for the interannual variability in fruit production, supporting the premise that local tree resources and favourable pollinating conditions are needed to produce large fruit crops. Synchrony in fruit production between forests was mainly associated with weather and geographical distance among sites. Also, fruit production for a given year was less variable among sites during warm and dry springs (negative spring NAO phases). Our results identify the Moran effect as the most likely mechanism for synchronisation of fruit production at large geographical scales and the possibility that pollen availability plays a role in synchronising fruit production at local scales. Our results highlight the influence of the NAO on the patterns of fruit production across western Europe.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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