Plant Ecology

, Volume 207, Issue 2, pp 233–244 | Cite as

Morphological traits and water use strategies in seedlings of Mediterranean coexisting species

  • E. I. HernándezEmail author
  • A. Vilagrosa
  • J. G. Pausas
  • J. Bellot


The distribution of plants is associated with their different patterns of response to their environment. Mediterranean plants have evolved a number of morphological and physiological adaptations that determine their ability to survive and grow, being an effective water uptake and use important factors for drought resistance. In this article, we evaluated interspecific differences in morphology, biomass allocation, and architectural traits and their relationship with water use strategies in seedlings of seven co-occurring Mediterranean species (Anthyllis cytisoides L., Genista scorpius L. DC., Myrtus communis L., Pistacia lentiscus L., Rosmarinus officinalis L., Spartium junceum L. and Ulex parviflorus Pourr.). The results showed that morphological root features vary among species and they are significantly correlated with root hydraulic conductance and leaf gas exchange variables. Species with high specific root length (SRL) showed a low hydraulic conductance per root length (K RRL) but high specific hydraulic conductance (K As). M. communis and P. lentiscus showed the most contrasting water use patterns with respect to the other species studied. The results are not affected when considering phylogenetic relatedness. Thus, the variability observed in root hydraulic properties and leaf gas exchange suggests important mechanisms for understanding species coexistence in water-limited ecosystems.


Hydraulic conductance Leaf gas exchange Mediterranean species Root morphology 



This work has been financed by the Spanish projects SINREG (REN2003-07198-C02-02/GLO), PERSIST (CGL2006-07126/BOS), ESTRES (063/SGTB/2007/7.1) and Consolider-Ingenio (GRACCIE CSD2007-00067). E.I. Hernández thanks the University of Alicante for her FPU research fellowship. A. Vilagrosa thanks the GV for his post-doctoral grant (BEST08/017). We are all grateful to S. Paula, M. Llorca, B. Moreira and V.C. Luis for their assistance in the experiment, and to the Banc de Llavors Forestals of the Generalitat Valenciana for access to material and installations. Also thanks to J. Scheiding for the language corrections on the manuscript and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. CEAM is supported by the Generalitat Valenciana and Bancaixa.

Supplementary material

11258_2009_9668_MOESM1_ESM.doc (71 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. I. Hernández
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Vilagrosa
    • 2
  • J. G. Pausas
    • 3
  • J. Bellot
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  2. 2.Fundación Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneo (CEAM)PaternaSpain
  3. 3.CIDE, CSIC, Apartado OficialAlbalSpain

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