• Disturbance;
  • Mediterranean-type ecosystem;
  • Resprouting;
  • Shrubland;
  • Site productivity
  • Valdés et al. (1987)

Abstract. It has been proposed that resprouting after a disturbance would be favoured under conditions of low soil resource availability. In lignotuberous plants of Mediterranean-type areas, successful resprouting after disturbances such as fire depends on the size of the lignotuber, but little is known about the role of soil resources in determining the relative size of this organ. In this work we tested whether the relative size of the lignotuber in the resprouting shrub Erica australis is related to the availability of soil resources. At each of 13 different sites in Spain, 10 plants were chosen and the sizes of their various parts (above- and below-ground) measured. Additionally, at each site we evaluated soil fertility, foliar N and P concentrations and plant water potential in the middle of the summer. The relationships between lignotuber dimensions and the various plant parts were assessed. In all cases, significant differences between sites were found indicating consistent differences in lignotuber size across the range of plant sizes. This was particularly the case when lignotuber dimensions were expressed as a function of foliar biomass. Lignotuber dimensions relative to foliar biomass were positively correlated with soil pH and negatively with plant water potentials in midsummer. There were, however, no clear relationships between lignotuber relative dimensions and soil N and P contents or other measures of site productivity. In summary, lignotubers were not smaller at more productive sites, in fact they were relatively larger at sites where soils were less acidic, but where plant water conditions were less favourable. These findings contradict predictions made based on current theory on the role of soil fertility allocation to resprouting.