BackgroundIn Mediterranean mountain socio-ecosystems, both grazing by livestock and the dry season may influence tree regeneration. However, the relative contributions of these drivers are poorly known, even though present and future canopy composition might result from past and present variations in climate and herbivore density. This study aims to test how semi-feral cattle presence and season affect tree regeneration.MethodsThe study was conducted using permanent plots inside and outside a cattle exclosure in an old-growth Mediterranean forest. Saplings and seedlings were counted five times per year (winter, early spring, middle spring, summer, fall) and monitored over 7 yrs.ResultsSemi-feral cattle exclusion increased Acer, Fagus, Ilex, Pinus, Prunus and Quercus sapling densities and increased Acer, Fraxinus, Ilex, Quercus and Sorbus seedling densities. Interestingly, the dry season did not exert any noticeable effects on the sapling or seedling densities of any of the studied taxa.DiscussionSemi-feral cattle presence may limit tree regeneration through taxon-dependent effects, which suggests that the current decrease in grazing livestock across the Mediterranean basin will modify recruitment processes and, likely, future forest composition.ConclusionsSemi-feral cattle presence acts as a selective driver of tree community composition.