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Keywords:

  • causality;
  • fire;
  • latent variable;
  • leaf;
  • Mediterranean;
  • post-fire;
  • regeneration;
  • trait;
  • woody species

Summary

  • 1
    Recent work has identified global-scale relationships between key leaf traits (leaf economics spectrum). However, it is important to determine whether this approach can be applied at local scale with smaller subsets of species facing similar environments. Since fire is a key process in Mediterranean shrubland dynamics we analyze whether fire-related life-history traits influence the pattern of correlation between the leaf economic spectrum and leaf moisture traits.
  • 2
    Using structural equation modelling and exploratory path analysis, we developed alternative models to test how interspecific leaf traits are related to the seasonal variation of water content (leaves and shoots) and to the type of post-fire regeneration of Mediterranean woody species.
  • 3
    This study demonstrates that for these species seasonal variation in water content and fuel moisture would be better predicted by the presence or absence of a trait describing post-fire seedling establishment than by the leaf economic spectrum traits. However, leaf dry matter content (LDMC) is influenced by both the leaf economic spectrum and the post-fire regenerative type.
  • 4
    Seeder species (those that recruit via seeds immediately after fire) present lower LDMC and higher relative seasonal variation of relative water content (RWCrsv) than non-seeders. We hypothesize that since seeder species mostly evolved under the Mediterranean climate, they developed a particular strategy of drought tolerance (without causing an effect to the relation between the volume occupied by cytoplasm relative to the volume occupied by cell walls), which is the cause of the observed relation between LDMC and RWCrsv.
  • 5
    This study suggests that the leaves of Mediterranean woody species would follow the general leaf economics spectrum (Wright et al. 2004) but that specific selective forces, such as disturbance regime, acting at regional scale also play a relevant role to explain leaf traits related to water content.