Ecological implications of different water use strategies in three coexisting mediterranean tree species uri icon

abstract

  • The ability of trees to grow and survive during periods of water scarcity is determined by the water use strategy of each individual. In this study we evaluated how water use strategies can influence the establishment phase of three coexisting species in forests where harvesting intensity and silvicultural interventions have been reduced over recent decades. We conducted a greenhouse experiment between February and July, applying two watering regimes (moist and dry) to current year seedlings in 1.5 m high pots to avoid root growth constraint. At the same time, the physiological performance of seedlings of the same species was monitored under natural conditions in the field over a period of decreasing soil moisture. Our results indicated that resprouter species allocated more than 40% of total biomass to roots whereas the non-resprouter P. pinea allocated only 26%. The plasticity index for the root traits was highest in Q ilex, in which the highest stomatal conductance was measured in early summer. The slowest growth and lowest root plasticity, root hydraulic conductance and leaf water potential were measured in J. oxycedrus. The three species exhibited a positive carbon balance under low water availability. Coexisting species displayed a continuum in the water use strategies adopted. P. pinea would be the least competitive species under the forecasted increasing drought conditions in contrast to J. oxycedrus, which presents traits more suited to coping with droughts. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • 2016
  • 2016