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Experimental drought and warming decrease diversity and slow down post-fire succession in a Mediterranean shrubland

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Plant community recovery (species richness, diversity and composition) of a post-fire Mediterranean shrubland was monitored over a seven year period (1998–2005) under experimental drought and warming that simulated the environmental conditions forecast for this area in the coming decades. Species richness and Shannon's index were positively correlated with accumulated precipitation in the growing season and both variables were negatively affected by reduced water availability in drought plots. The relative abundance of the different species in both treatments was linearly correlated with their relative abundance in control plots. Moreover, we found species-specific responses to treatments. Drought and warming treatment reduced the competitive ability of the obligate seeder tree Pinus halepensis against native resprouter shrubs and consequently, the transformation from shrub to pine tree dominated vegetation was slowed down. Conversely, the water use strategy of Globularia alypum may allow this species to maintain a dominant position in drought plots. Therefore, future drier and warmer conditions in Mediterranean areas may severely affect plant community recovery after a disturbance, due to the existence of both abundance-dependent and species-specific responses that may change inter-specific competitive relationships.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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