Performance of seedlings of Mediterranean woody species under experimental gradients of irradiance and water availability: trade-offs and evidence for niche differentiation


Author for correspondence: David Sánchez-Gómez Tel: +34 917452500 ext 1291 Fax: +34 915640800 Email:


  • • The aim of the study was to assess the potential importance for Mediterranean plants of trade-offs in the response to irradiance and water availability at the regeneration stage.
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    Survival and growth patterns across an experimentally imposed irradiance gradient (1, 6, 20 and 100% sunlight) were studied in seedlings of eight Mediterranean woody species, together with the impact of a simulated summer drought.

  • • We found evidence of some of the trade-offs previously reported for non-Mediterranean plant communities, such as between survival in the shade and relative growth rate (RGR) at high light, but no evidence for others, such as between shade and drought tolerances. The impact of drought on survival and RGR was stronger in high light than in deep shade.
  • • The observed species-specific differences in performance provide a mechanistic basis for niche differentiation at the regeneration stage, contributing to possible explanations of species coexistence in Mediterranean ecosystems.