Summer-drought constrains the phenology and growth of two coexisting Mediterranean oaks with contrasting leaf habit: implications for their persistence and reproduction

Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB15 8QH UK
Trees (Impact Factor: 1.87). 08/2009; 23(4):787-799. DOI: 10.1007/s00468-009-0320-5

ABSTRACT This study analyses how coexisting evergreen and deciduous oaks adjust their phenology to cope with the stressful Mediterranean
summer conditions. We test the hypothesis that the vegetative and reproductive growth of the winter deciduous (Quercus faginea Lam.) is more affected by summer drought than that of the evergreen [Quercus ilex L. subsp. ballota (Desf.) Samp.]. First, we assessed the complete aboveground phenology of both species during two consecutive years. Shoot
and litter production and bud, acorn and secondary growth were monitored monthly. Second, we identified several parameters
affected by summer conditions: apical bud size, individual leaf area (LA), leaf mass per area (LMA) and acorn yield in both
species, and leaf-fall in Q. faginea; and analysed their variation over 10years. Q. ilex performed up to 25% of shoot growth and most leaf development during summer, whereas Q. faginea completed most of both phenophases during spring. Secondary growth was arrested in summer under drought conditions. Approximately,
30–40% of bud and 40–50% of acorn growth was undertaken during summer in both species. Summer drought related to differences
in LA, LMA and leaf senescence, but not to acorn yield. Both species had similar year-to-year patterns of acorn production,
though yields were always lower in Q. faginea. Bud size decreased severely in both species during extremely dry years. In Q. ilex, bud size tended to alternate between years of large and small buds, and these patterns were followed by opposite trends in
stem length. In Q. faginea, bud size was more stable through time. Q. ilex was more phenologically active during summer than Q. faginea, indicating a higher tolerance to drought. Furthermore, bud and fruit growth (the only two phenophases that both species
performed during summer) were more severely affected by summer drought in Q. faginea than in the evergreen. The differential effects of summer drought on key phenophases for the persistence (bud growth) and
colonization ability (fruit production) of both species may have consequences for their coexistence.

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