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Drought advances spring growth phenology of the Mediterranean shrub Erica multiflora

Authors

  • M. Bernal,

    1.  Global Ecology Unit CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain
    2.  Present address: Department de Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Girona, Girona, Spain
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  • M. Estiarte,

    1.  Global Ecology Unit CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain
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  • J. Peñuelas

    1.  Global Ecology Unit CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain
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  • Editor
    J. Sparks

M. Estiarte, Unitat d’Ecologia Global CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, CREAF (Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals), Edifici C, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.
E-mail: m.estiarte@creaf.uab.cat

Abstract

Current climate projections predict drier and warmer conditions in the Mediterranean basin over the next century. While advanced spring growth due to warming has been described in the literature, few data are available on the effects of drought on phenology. Hence, the phenology and growth of two Mediterranean shrubs, Erica multiflora and Globularia alypum, was studied in a rainfall exclusion field experiment to simulate spring drought in a natural shrubland. We estimated the onset of growth in spring by monitoring the appearance of new stems, and the end of growth in summer by following the elongation of stems. Drought treatment caused earlier onset of the spring growing season in E. multiflora, whereas no advance was observed in G. alypum. However, growth cessation was not affected in E. multiflora. Drought reduced the growth of both shrubs, as reflected in less stem elongation. The results show that a drier climate might affect not only growth but also spring phenology of some Mediterranean species. We suggest that a reduction in the cooling effect of transpiration may have analogous effects to warming and might advance the start of growth in E. multiflora, a species whose phenology has been described as warming-sensitive. The lengthening of the growing season resulting from advanced growth did not imply higher productivity, as growth was restricted by drought.

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