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Drought-Induced Changes in C and N Stoichiometry in a Quercus ilex Mediterranean Forest

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A 6-year field experiment of drought manipulation was performed in a Mediterranean forest with the aim of determining the effects of the drought predicted by most climate and ecophysiological models on the C and N concentration, accumulation, and stoichiometry in plants and soil. Drought had different effects among dominant species. In Quercus ilex, it increased the C/P ratio in wood and roots, N concentrations in roots and litter, and N/P ratio in wood and roots and decreased the C concentration in roots, C/N ratio in roots and litter, and C/P ratio in litter. In Arbutus unedo, drought increased the N concentration in litter and decreased the N concentration in leaves, thus decreasing N leaf reabsorption. No significant changes in C and N concentrations were found in Phillyrea latifolia. Drought affected the P plant absorption capacity more than that of N (more mobile). There was a general decreasing trend of C and N accumulation in aboveground biomass, with this effect being significant in A. unedo, which accumulated 80% less C and lost 2 kg ha−1 of N in aboveground biomass in drought plots in the period 1999–2005, whereas in this same period it accumulated 9 kg ha−1 of N in total aboveground biomass in control plots. Total soil N and soil organic C increased in droughted soils. The effects of drought on C/N/P stoichiometry and N uptake capacity were different among the three dominant plant species. Q. ilex and A. unedo were more sensitive to drought than P. latifolia. The increase in C/P and N/P ratios in Q. ilex and the decrease in N uptake in A. unedo might decrease their competitive capacity under drought by decreasing water use efficiency. These results altogether indicated slower C and N mineralization and lower N plant capture, N leaf reabsorption, and N accumulation in some dominant plant species in response to drought, thus reducing C and N soil turnover, increasing C and N accumulation in soil, and reducing C and N at the stand level.

Keywords: Arbutus unedo; N/P ratio; Phillyrea latifolia; Quercus ilex; climate change; drought; soil

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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