Influence of species interactions on transpiration of Mediterranean tree species during a summer drought
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Recent research has shown that interactions between species with different functional traits can promote forest ecosystem processes. In the context of climate change, understanding whether species interactions in mixed-species ecosystems can improve the adaptation of these ecosystems to extreme climatic events is crucial to developing new management strategies. In this study, we investigated the impact of species interactions on the sap flux density of three Mediterranean tree species (Quercus faginea, Pinus nigra and Pinus sylvestris) during a summer drought. Measurements of foliar carbon isotopic composition (δ13C) were also conducted on the same trees. The decline in transpiration during drought was the greatest for P. sylvestris and the least pronounced for Q. faginea. For P. nigra and Q. faginea, the decrease in transpiration as the drought progressed was lower when these species where interacting with another tree species, particularly with P. sylvestris. In contrast, the decrease for P. sylvestris was higher when this species was interacting with another species. Differing drought effects were consistent with the δ13C values. We showed that the identity of the species present in the direct neighbourhood of a given tree can differentially influence water availability and water-use of these three co-existing Mediterranean tree species during a summer drought. Our findings suggest that species interactions play an important role in modulating the response of tree species to drought. Favouring tree species diversity in this region does not seem to be systematically beneficial in terms of soil water availability and water-use for all the interacting species.