Plant Ecology

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 201-209

First online:

Early establishment of planted Retama sphaerocarpa seedlings under different levels of light, water and weed competition

  • José María Rey BenayasAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alcalá
  • , Antonio López-PintorAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alcalá
  • , Carmen GarcíaAffiliated withBioenergetics Laboratory, University of Geneva
  • , Nuria de la CámaraAffiliated withBioenergetics Laboratory, University of Geneva
  • , Reto StrasserAffiliated withBioenergetics Laboratory, University of Geneva
  • , Antonio Gómez SalAffiliated withDepartamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alcalá

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Large amounts of former cropland are being abandoned in developedregions. To formulate guidelines for land reclamation programmes, we exploredthe effects of artificial shading, irrigation, and removal of weed competitionon the performance of Retama sphaerocarpa (L.) Boiss.seedlings in a factorial experiment located in an abandoned cropland in CentralSpain. R. sphaerocarpa is of interest for revegetationbecause it is a drought tolerant leguminous shrub that is a major structuralcomponent of the native plant community. Seedling performance was evaluated inthree ways: seedling survivorship, growth, and photochemical efficiency. Wealsomeasured soil moisture and weed biomass production and found that bothincreasedunder artificial shading conditions. Soil moisture increased very slightlywhereweeds were removed. Thus, increased transpiration from weeds outweighed reducedevaporation from soils due to shading by weeds. Artificial shading was the mosteffective treatment for seedling survivorship, followed by removal ofcompetition by weeds. After summer, 34 % of the seedlings survived in the mostfavourable conditions (artificially shaded plots where weeds were removed),compared to ca. 1 % in full-light plots with no removal of weed competition. Apositive effect of irrigation was found for growth of seedling cover and heightin shaded plots. The analysis of photochemical efficiency pointed out therelevance of weed competition removal, and confirmed the usefulness of fastfluorescence transient techniques for the quantification of seedlingperformance. The data suggest that competition between seedlings and weeds wasprimarily for water rather than for light. We conclude that i) artificialshading improved seedling performance, but this is a little practical techniquebecause of its cost; ii) as weeds compete with, rather than facilitate, plantedseedlings, weed clipping around the seedlings is a feasible technique thatwouldimprove seedling survival; and iii) seedling performance could alsoconsiderablyimprove with a higher irrigation than was used in this experiment(75lm−2 per growth period), provided that weedsare removed.

Abandoned Mediterranean cropland Artificial shading Fluorescence Performance Index Irrigation Shrub establishment Weed biomass