Foliar stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in woody Mediterranean species with different life form and post-fire regeneration

Authors

  • S. Saura-Mas,

    1. Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and Unit of Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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  • F. Lloret

    1. Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and Unit of Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
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S. Saura-Mas, Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) and Unit of Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.
E-mail: s.sauramas@creaf.uab.cat
Editor
T. Elzenga

Abstract

Wildfire is an important ecological disturbance factor in most Mediterranean ecosystems. In the Mediterranean Basin, most shrub species can regenerate after fire by resprouting or seeding. Here, we hypothesize that post-fire regenerative syndromes may potentially co-vary with traits directly related to functional properties involved in resource use. Thus, seeders with a shorter life span and smaller size would have lower water-use efficiency (WUE) than re-sprouting species and would take up nutrients such as nitrogen from more superficial parts of the soil. To test this hypothesis, we compared leaf 13C and 15N signatures from 29 co-existing species with different post-fire regeneration strategies. We also considered life form as an additional explanatory variable of the differences between post-fire regenerative groups. Our data support the hypothesis that seeder species (which mostly evolved in the Quaternary under a Mediterranean climate) have lower WUE and less stomatal control than non-seeders (many of which evolved under different climatic conditions in the Tertiary) and consequently greater consumption of water per unit biomass. This would be related to their smaller life forms, which tend to have lower WUE and shorter life and leaf lifespan. Differences in 15N also support the hypothesis that resprouters have deeper root systems than non-resprouters. The study supports the hypothesis of an overlap between plant functional traits and plant attributes describing post-disturbance resilience.

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