Treefall gap characteristics and regeneration in the laurel forest of Tenerife
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We conducted a study in the laurel forest of Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) to describe the characteristics of natural gaps and to assess the role of treefall gaps in forest dynamics. Very little is left of the natural laurel forest with i.a. Laurus azorica, Ilex canariensis and Prunus lusitanica. We looked for treefall gaps in 80 randomly located 2500 m2 plots. These plots represented ca. 1% of the remaining and protected laurel forest of Tenerife. We recorded the characteristics of the species causing the gaps, gap architecture and gap age in all observed gaps larger than 10 m2. We inventoried the regeneration in each gap and in a neighbouring control plot with the same topography. Large gaps (>75 m2) were not common in the laurel forest. The absence of large gaps could be due to the physiognomy of the vegetation, the mild weather or the rarity of disturbances. Instead of forming gaps, many trees decompose in place and branches from neighbouring trees and suckers from the decomposed trees occupy the free space. Also, the high rate of asexual regeneration could contribute to the fast closing of the gap. The number of gaps created by Prunus lusitanica was higher than expected (based on canopy composition) while Ilex canariensis and Laurus azorica created fewer gaps. In this evergreen forest, differences between gap and non‐gap conditions are not as distinct as in other forest types. Only 0.4% of the canopy is in the gap phase (0.6% including gaps smaller than 10m2). No differences were found in patterns of regeneration between gap and non‐gap phases in the forest. Gaps do not explain the persistence of pioneer species in the laurel forest.