De Dato, Giovanbattista Domenico and Pellizzaro, Grazia and Cesaraccio, Carla and Sirca, Costantino Battista and De Angelis, Paolo and Duce, Pierpaolo and Spano, Donatella Emma Ignazia and Scarascia Mugnozza, Giuseppe (2006) Effects of warmer and drier climate conditions on plant composition and biomass production in a Mediterranean shrubland community. Forest@, Vol. 3 (4), p. 511-526. ISSN 1824-0119. Article.
The last IPCC report predicts warmer and drier conditions for the future European climate and the Mediterranean basin could be highly sensible to future climatic change. In order to investigate how the forecast more stressing factors could affect Mediterranean shrubland ecosystems, an appropriate manipulation of the microclimate was carried out in an area covered by Mediterranean maquis aimed at extending the drought period and increasing the night-time temperature. Soil cover, plant growth, litterfall, leaf water status, and leaf nutritional status were monitored over three growing seasons. The manipulation altered the microclimate according to common scenarios, increasing mean annual night-time air temperature by about 1 °C and mean annual temperature by about 0.5 °C, and decreasing precipitation between 6-46% of the total rainfall during the growing seasons. A general increase of vegetation cover was observed in the whole community during the three years of experimentation. This positive temporal pattern was mainly observed in control and warming treatment, whereas in the drought treatment it was less evident. At species-specific level, a clear negative effect of drought treatment was observed for C. monspeliensis percentage cover. Shoot elongation was not significantly affected by the warming treatment. A significant negative effect of drought treatment was noticed in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 growing seasons. An increase of N and P concentrations in the drought treatment in Cistus was observed and it can be explained by the reduced shoot growth induced by the water shortage that we had observed in the same treatment. The absence of a concentration effect on the other two species could be the signal of the different behaviour with regard to a drier climate, and therefore could be a symptom of future change in species composition. We underline the need of longterm observation, because of the different responses of plants in the short and long- term conditions.
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