, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1651-1659
Date: 04 Jun 2012

Comparative study of diurnal and nocturnal sap flow of Quercus ilex and Phillyrea latifolia in a Mediterranean holm oak forest in Prades (Catalonia, NE Spain)

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Abstract

Droughts are a cyclical disturbance in Mediterranean ecosystems and climate change models forecast an increase of their frequency and severity. Some experimental and observational studies have shown that co-occurring species may cope with drier conditions with different strategies and present different responses. Here, we investigate sap flow response to drought in order to explain the observed differential growth and mortality of Quercus ilex and Phillyrea latifolia at Prades Holm oak forest (NE Spain). We measured sap flow of these species and compared their diurnal, nocturnal and seasonal patterns and their relationship with environmental variables. Both species described qualitatively similar daily patterns, either during daylight or night. Sap flow rates were significantly higher in P. latifolia except in autumn and spring. P. latifolia was more sensitive to soil moisture. Nocturnal sap flow was detected in both species with no significant differences and hourly rates suffered a progressive increase from 3 a.m. to dawn in most sampled nights. Our results indicate a better adaptation of P. latifolia to this site as it can take better advantage of wet periods while maintaining higher sap flow rates during dry periods. Along with previous ecophysiological studies at the same location it may be inferred that at its drier distributional limit Q. ilex would be at disadvantage with respect to other species like P. latifolia, as the latter would cope better with increasing xeric conditions already occurring and further predicted for Mediterranean ecosystems. Our results also show nocturnal sap flow to be relevant in individual water losses in these two species as they can be up to 35–40 % of daily sap flow. Further research on the underlying mechanisms of this nocturnal sap flow is required since it may also enhance early morning CO2 fixation or nutrient supply to leaves.

Communicated by M. Zwieniecki.