Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Differences in morpho-physiological leaf traits reflect the response of growth to drought in a seeder but not in a resprouter Mediterranean species

David A. Ramírez A B D , Antonio Parra A , Víctor Resco de Dios A C and José M. Moreno A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 45071 Toledo, Spain.

B Present address: Programa de Doctorado en Recursos Hídricos, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Lima 12, Perú.

C Present address: Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Emails: dramirez@lamolina.edu.pe; josem.moreno@uclm.es

Functional Plant Biology 39(4) 332-341 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP11232
Submitted: 15 October 2011  Accepted: 28 January 2012   Published: 8 March 2012

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the response of different plant functional types to current and projected changes in rainfall is particularly important in drought-prone areas like the Mediterranean. Here, we report the responses of two species with contrasting leaf characteristics and post-fire regeneration strategies (Cistus ladanifer L., malacophyllous, seeder; Erica arborea L., sclerophyllous, resprouter) to a manipulative field experiment that simulated a severe drought (45% reduction of historical average rainfall). We measured monthly changes in relative growth rate (RGR), specific leaf area (SLA), bulk leaf carbon isotope composition (δ13C), predawn water potential (Ψpd), photosynthetic gas exchange, bulk modulus of elasticity and osmotic potential at maximum turgor (π). Temporal (monthly) changes in RGR of C. ladanifer were correlated with all measured leaf traits (except π) and followed Ψpd variation. However, the temporal pattern of RGR in E. arborea was largely unrelated to water availability. SLA monthly variation reflected RGR variation reasonably well in C. ladanifer, but not in E. arborea, in which shoot growth and δ13C increased at the time of maximum water stress in late summer. The relationship between water availability, and RGR and carbon assimilation in C. ladanifer, and the lack of any relationship in E. arborea suggest that the former has an enhanced capacity to harness unpredictable rainfall pulses compared with the latter. These contrasting responses to water availability indicate that the projected changes in rainfall with global warming could alter the competitive ability of these two species, and contribute to changes in plant dominance in Mediterranean shrublands.

Additional keywords: Cistus ladanifer, climate change, Erica arborea, relative growth rate, shoot water potential, specific leaf area, water stress.


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