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Effects of resource availability on plant rec ruitment at the community level in a Mediterranean mountain ecosystem

AuthorsMatías Resina, Luis; Gómez Aparicio, Lorena ; Zamora Rodríguez, Regino; Castro Gutiérrez, Jorge
KeywordsCausal relationships
Climate change
Issue DateNov-2011
Urban and Fischer
CitationPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 13(4): 277-285 (2011)
AbstractCoexisting plant species usually differ in resource requirements, which may also vary within species at successive demographic stages. Such differences become extremely important during the early life stages, since these are the most critical phases in woody-species recruitment, they depend heavily on resources, and they may determine future community composition. Under a global-change scenario, where climatic conditions, nutrient availability, and habitat characteristics are expected to be altered, it is difficult to predict the way in which plant recruitment will be affected. To understand the impact of different global-change drivers on community recruitment, we sowed a set of species representative of the different successional groups of a complete Mediterranean woody community under field conditions, and studied their emergence, growth, and survival along the main resource gradients of light, water, and nutrients. The light and nutrient gradients followed the natural range of conditions in the study area, but water availability was manipulated to simulate three contrasting climatic scenarios: wetter, drier, and current conditions. Structural equation modelling was used to provide a comprehensive analysis of the factors and relations governing plant recruitment. Overall, seedling emergence was determined directly by light; growth was determined by light and summer soil moisture; and survival was determined by summer soil moisture. Light was the main factor indirectly affecting the demographic stages of all species. However, the magnitude of the direct and indirect relationships varied among species. Particularly, species differed in their response to the expected drier climatic conditions, some (e.g. Pinus sylvestris, Acer opalus) being much more vulnerable than others (e.g. Cytisus scoparius, Salvia lavandulifolia). These differential responses could translate as major shifts in the structure of the overall plant community. Our results support the idea that the analysis of complex relations among essential resources is critical for accurate forecasts of the impact of climate change on community dynamics.
Description9 pages, 2 figures, 2 tables.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2011.04.005
Appears in Collections:(IRNAS) Artículos
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