We analyse the contribution of plant–plant interactions, particularly the outcome of plant competition and plant facilitation, on vegetation dynamics as a result of extreme drought episodes. These events will likely become more frequent under climate change, can induce vegetation die-off and alter community dynamics. We study succession in a shrubland that tends to be replaced by juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) woodland. Due to drought, shrubland die-off may result in competition release favouring J. phoenicea juveniles, and accelerating shrubland replacement. Alternatively, deleterious abiotic stress may increase after loss of vegetation cover protection.