Newly discovered seed dispersal system of Juniperus cedrus questions the pristine nature of the high elevation scrub of El Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands)
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As a working hypothesis, we examined evidence for the former presence of a climacic woodland of Juniperus cedrus above the pine forest in the high elevation area of Tenerife (Canary Islands), which would indicate that the current dominant vegetation (endemic Spartocytisus supranubius scrub) may not be pristine. The main causes of the great regression of this woodland were caused by human activities (timber harvesting, herbivory by goats, and fires). The main support for this hypothesis is the survival of a presumably relict seed dispersal system of the endangered endemic J. cedrus, which relies mainly on the wintering thrush Turdus torquatus. The fact that genetic factors are directly involved in the control of bird migration routes strongly supports the idea that this interaction could be remnant of an older system, probably more widespread in the past. To test this hypothesis, we propose that a paleoecological approach could reconstruct the vegetation dynamics in the Teide National Park (Tenerife) and the past presence of this seed disperser migratory thrush. The analysis of plant microfossils in sediments (e.g., pollen, spores, phytoliths, coprolites, and charcoal) would allow us to evaluate whether the current vegetation is the same as that which naturally existed in the past, and assess the impact of the anthropogenic and natural factors to which it has been subjected during history. The results of these analyses will be useful for future management policies and practices aimed at restoring the pristine landscape and biotic interactions of the Teide National Park. To our knowledge, the case presented in this contribution, based on the high dependence of the seed dispersal of an endemic tree (J. cedrus) on a migratory bird, is the only reported in the context of oceanic islands.