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Influence of summer marine fog and low cloud stratus on water relations of evergreen woody shrubs (Arctostaphylos: Ericaceae) in the chaparral of central California

  • Physiological ecology - Original research
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An Erratum to this article was published on 29 August 2012

Abstract

Mediterranean-type climate (MTC) regions around the world are notable for cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. A dominant vegetation type in all five MTC regions is evergreen, sclerophyllous shrubland, called chaparral in California. The extreme summer dry season in California is moderated by a persistent low-elevation layer of marine fog and cloud cover along the margin of the Pacific coast. We tested whether late dry season water potentials (Ψmin) of chaparral shrubs, such as Arctostaphylos species in central California, are influenced by this coast-to-interior climate gradient. Lowland coastal (maritime) shrubs were found to have significantly less negative Ψmin than upland interior shrubs (interior), and stable isotope (δ13C) values exhibited greater water use efficiency in the interior. Post-fire resprouter shrubs (resprouters) had significantly less negative Ψmin than co-occurring obligate seeder shrubs (seeders) in interior and transitional chaparral, possibly because resprouters have deeper root systems with better access to subsurface water than shallow-rooted seeders. Unexpectedly, maritime resprouters and seeders did not differ significantly in their Ψmin, possibly reflecting more favorable water availability for shrubs influenced by the summer marine layer. Microclimate and soil data also suggest that maritime habitats have more favorable water availability than the interior. While maritime seeders constitute the majority of local Arctostaphylos endemics, they exhibited significantly greater vulnerability to xylem cavitation than interior seeders. Because rare seeders in maritime chaparral are more vulnerable to xylem cavitation than interior seeders, the potential breakdown of the summer marine layer along the coast is of potential conservation concern.

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Acknowledgments

This project was funded by the Jean H. Langenheim graduate fellowship, the Environmental Studies Department and STEPS Institute at UC Santa Cruz and a Mildred E. Mathias graduate student research grant through the UC Natural Reserve Program. Karen Holl provided helpful guidance and Ed Connor at SFSU provided statistical advice. Anna Jacobsen and R. Brandon Pratt generously performed the xylem cavitation analysis. We thank Gage Dayton of UC Fort Ord, Kim Hayes of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Julie Baldocchi of Gabilan Ranch, Matt Ritter of CSU San Luis Obispo, and Brett Hall of UCSC Arboretum for logistical support. Seth Hiatt at the Institute for Geographic Information Science at San Francisco State University provided helpful assistance with Fig. 1. Erica Curles provided excellent undergraduate assistance. Dr. David Pyke and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved the quality of the manuscript.

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Vasey, M.C., Loik, M.E. & Parker, V.T. Influence of summer marine fog and low cloud stratus on water relations of evergreen woody shrubs (Arctostaphylos: Ericaceae) in the chaparral of central California. Oecologia 170, 325–337 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-012-2321-0

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