Strategies, function and vulnerability of key Mediterranean woodland species under drought

Summary: An increase in temperatures and a decrease in precipitation are predicted in the Mediterranean Basin as a part of climate-change scenarios. The Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable to climate change because the structure and function of its vegetation systems are considered to be limited by water. Mortality of dominant tree species (Quercus calliprinos, Phillyrea longifolia and Pistacia lentiscus) has been lately reported in Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park in southern Mt. Carmel region. This mortality is assumed to be related to several years of reduced precipitation and, possibly, increased summer temperature. The objective of the study is to understand the possible consequences of climate change in Mediterranean woodlands in terms of function, structure and dynamics of the main woody species and the whole ecosystem.

The research questions/goals include:

1) Ecophysiological assessment of the relationships between water availability and the function of the different tree/shrub species. How do the dominant tree species respond to water stress?

2) Identifying principle mechanisms of coping with drought within the different species (e.g. avoidance in time or space, tolerance)

3) Is the water availability the main factor determining the vegetation structure and function? How should we expect ecosystem functions and structure to be effected by future drier conditions?

4) How grazing affects the water status and the physiology of these species? Can grazing be used to alleviate water stress and decrease mortality?

Yagil Osem, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel

Päivi Väänänen (PhD student)

Partner organizations:
Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park

drought   drought