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Ceanothus megacarpus chaparral: A synthesis of ecosystem processes during development and annual growth

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Summary

The evergreen sclerophyll shrub,Ceanothus megacarpus, dominates the chaparral in many areas of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara County, California, USA. Often occurring in pure stands,C. megacarpus chaparral accumulates large amounts of aboveground live biomass during growth after fire as a result of high rates of net primary productivity (850 g/m2/yr) compared to other chaparral areas and Mediterranean scrublands of the world. Populations ofC. megacarpus are even-aged, growing from buried seed which requires heat treatment for germination. During the early years of stand development after fire, competition for water among the shrubs results in mortalities of up to 50% of the initial population. This competition is evident by changes in the population size-structure and dispersion pattern of the living shrubs. Water potential measurements during the summer drought show that smaller individuals are more severely stressed than larger individuals. Similarly, shrubs in younger stands develop lower water potentials than shrubs in older stands. There is little mortality after 15 to 20 years of growth; competition for water is alleviated in older stands presumably because the surviving shrubs have developed more extensive root systems. Leaf area reaches a steady-state of 1.6 m2/m2 in 20-year-old stands. At this stage of development, competition for light is manifest in shrub physiognomy, particularly in the death of lower branches.

Nutrient losses occur as a result of volatilization and erosion due to fire, and long periods of time are apparently necessary to replace nutrients such as nitrogen from atmospheric sources. Nevertheless, stands ofC. megacarpus show little evidence of nutrient deficiencies. Decomposition of plant detritus is rapid and this species shows efficient internal nutrient use. Up to 46% of the nitrogen and 56% of the phosphorus needed for annual growth are supplied by reabsorption from senescing foliage before abscission. These aspects of nutrient cycling may help explain the long-term persistence and sustained productivity of chaparral dominated byC. megacarpus in this area of California.

Résumé

L’arbuste sclérophylle sempervivantCeanothus megacarpus domine la végétationchaparral de beaucoup de régions des montagnes Santa Ynez du comté de Santa Barbara dans la Californie des Etats-Unis. Souvent en futaies pures, ce chaparral àC. megacarpus produit une très grande biomasse aérienne vivante pendant un accroissement qui suit un feu et qui résulte d’une productivité primaire nette de 850 g/m2/an en comparaison d’autres régions dechaparral et de formations ligneuses basses du type méditerrané du monde. Les arbustes des peuplements deC. megacarpus sont tous du même âge parce qu’ils sont nés de graines dans le sol dont la germination exige la chaleur de feu. Pendant les premières années d’accroisement après un feu, la moitié des arbustes meurt à cause d’une compétition pour l’eau mise en évidence par des modifications aportées à la distribution des classes des diamètres des bases dans le peuplement et à la distribution spatiale des arbustes vivants. Des mesures de potentiel hydrique pendant la sécheresse d’été montrent que les petits individus sont plus affectés que les grands. Les arbustes de futaies plus jeunes ont de potentiel hydrique plus bas que ceux de futaies plus âgées. Il y a moins de mortalité à partir de 15 à 20 ans; la compétition pour l’eau ralentit chez les arbustes plus âgés, probablement parce que ceux-ci ont une plus grande biomasse racinaire. La surface de feuilles des arbustes de futaies âgées de 20 ans atteint 1,6 m2/m2, étage de développement où la compétition pour la lumière se manifeste par la mort des branches les plus basses.

Les éléments minéraux se perdent à cause de volitilization et de feu, et il semble qu’il faille beaucoup de temps pour remplacer de l’atmosphère des minéraux tels que l’azote. Néanmoins les futaies deC. megacarpus ne semblent pas avoir un minéralomasse insuffisante. La matière organique d’origine végétale se décompose rapidement etC. megacarpus utilise efficacement les minéraux produits par ce moyen. Jusqu’à 45% de l’azote et 56% du phosphore pour l’accroissement annuel se fournissent par une réabsorption de produits dans des feuilles en sénescence avant la perte de ces structures. Ces aspects de cycles d’éléments minéraux peuvent contribuer à expliquer la longue persistence et la productivité soutenue du chaparral àC. megacarpus de cette région de la Californie.

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Schlesinger, W.H., Gray, J.T., Gill, D.S. et al. Ceanothus megacarpus chaparral: A synthesis of ecosystem processes during development and annual growth. Bot. Rev 48, 71–117 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02860536

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