Impacts of climate change on water resources in the Mediterranean Basin: a case study in Catalonia, Spain [Impacts du changement climatique sur les ressources en eau dans le bassin méditerranéen : une étude de cas en Catalogne, Espagne]

Pascual D., Pla E., Lopez-Bustins J.A., Retana J., Terradas J. (2015) Impacts of climate change on water resources in the Mediterranean Basin: a case study in Catalonia, Spain [Impacts du changement climatique sur les ressources en eau dans le bassin méditerranéen : une étude de cas en Catalogne, Espagne]. Hydrological Sciences Journal. : 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1080/02626667.2014.947290

Resumen:

Most climate change projections show important decreases in water availability in the Mediterranean region by the end of this century. We assess those main climate change impacts on water resources in three medium-sized catchments with varying climatic conditions in northeastern Spain. A combination of hydrological modelling and climate projections with B1 and A2 IPCC emission scenarios is performed to infer future streamflows. The largest reduction (34%) in mean streamflows (for 2076–2100) is expected in the headwaters of the two wettest catchments, while lower decreases (25% of mean value for 2076–2100) are expected in the drier one. In all three catchments, autumn and summer are the seasons with the most notable projected decreases in streamflow, of 50% and 30%, respectively. Thus, ecological flows in the study area might be noticeably influenced by climate change, especially in the headwaters of the wet catchments.Editor Z.W. Kundzewicz © 2015 IAHS

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A multidimensional functional trait analysis of resource exploitation in European ants

Retana J., Arnan X., Cerdá X. (2015) A multidimensional functional trait analysis of resource exploitation in European ants. Ecology. 96: 2781-2793.
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Doi: 10.1890/14-2326.1

Resumen:

The major factors explaining ecological variation in plants have been widely discussed over the last decade thanks to numerous studies that have examined the covariation that exists between pairs of traits. However, multivariate relationships among traits remain poorly characterized in animals. In this study, we aimed to identify the main multivariate trait dimensions that explain variance in important functional traits related to resource exploitation in ants. To this end, we created a large ant trait database. This database includes information on 11 traits that are important in ant resource exploitation; data were obtained for 150 European species found in different biomes. First, we examined the pairwise correlations between the traits included in the database. Second, we used multivariate analyses to identify potential trait dimensions. Our study shows that, to a great extent, resource exploitation strategies align along two main trait dimensions. The first dimension emerged in both the overall and group-specific analyses, where it accounted for the same pairwise trait correlations. The second dimension was more variable, as species were grouped by levels of taxonomy, habitat, and climate. These two dimensions included most of the significant pairwise trait correlations, thus highlighting that complementarity, but also redundancy, exists among different pairs of traits. The first dimension was associated with behavioral dominance: dominance was associated with large colony size, presence of multiple nests per colony, worker polymorphism, and a collective foraging strategy. The second dimension was associated with resource partitioning along dietary and microhabitat lines: it ranged from species that consume liquid foods, engage in group foraging, and mainly nest in the vegetation to species that consume insects and seeds, engage in individual foraging, and demonstrate strictly diurnal activity. Our findings establish a proficient ecological trait-based animal research that minimizes the number of traits to be measured while maximizing the number of relevant trait dimensions. Overall, resource exploitation in animals might be framed by behavioral dominance, foraging strategy, diet, and nesting habitat; the position of animal species within this trait space could provide relevant information about their distribution and abundance, for today as well as under future global change scenarios. © 2015 by the Ecological Society of America.

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Functional trait variation along environmental gradients in temperate and Mediterranean trees

Vilà-Cabrera A., Martínez-Vilalta J., Retana J. (2015) Functional trait variation along environmental gradients in temperate and Mediterranean trees. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 24: 1377-1389.
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Doi: 10.1111/geb.12379

Resumen:

Aim: Characterizing the variation of functional traits in nature is a first step towards linking environmental changes to changes in ecosystem function. Here we aim to characterize the spatial variability of major plant functional traits along wide environmental gradients in Mediterranean and temperate forests, and assess to what extent this variability differs between two dominant families in Northern Hemisphere forests: Fagaceae and Pinaceae. Location: Catalonia (north-east Iberian Peninsula). Methods: Four functional traits were selected to incorporate information on both the leaf and the wood economic spectra: maximum tree height (Hmax), wood density (WD), leaf mass per area (LMA) and nitrogen content of leaves (Nmass). We quantified the variance distribution of each functional trait across three nested ecological scales: population, species and family. Through such scales, we explored the spatial variation of functional traits through climatic and biotic gradients, as well as the covariation among traits. Results: Functional trait variability was distributed across all the ecological scales considered, but mostly at the family level, with functional traits differing markedly between Fagaceae and Pinaceae. Within families, variation in functional traits was similar or higher within species than between species. The spatial variability in functional traits was related to biotic and abiotic gradients, although this effect was quantitatively small compared with differences between families. Covariation among functional traits was not necessarily conserved across ecological scales. Trait covariation across all species was structured along the Hmax-WD and LMA-Nmass axes, but this structure was partially lost within families, where variation was mostly structured along the Hmax-LMA and WD-Nmass axes. Main conclusions: Intraspecific variation emerges as a fundamental component of functional trait structure along wide environmental gradients. Understanding the sources of intraspecific variation, as well as how it contributes to community assembly and ecosystem functioning, thus becomes a primary research question. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Composition and habitat use of small mammals in old-growth mountain forests

Arnan X., Comas L., Gracia M., Retana J. (2014) Composition and habitat use of small mammals in old-growth mountain forests. Journal of Natural History. 48: 481-494.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1080/00222933.2013.800611

Resumen:

Old-growth mountain forests in the Pyrenees have natural gap dynamics, a well-developed shrub layer and a large amount of dead wood. Small mammal communities in two types of old-growth forests, silver fir and mountain pine, were studied in July and September in 2006 and 2007. Four species were trapped: bank vole (Myodes glareolus), wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus) and common shrew (Sorex araneus). Bank voles and wood mice were most commonly trapped (78% of all captures). There were no differences in community composition in the two forest types, although the bank vole was more often captured in the silver fir than in the mountain pine forest. Mammals were more frequently captured at trap stations with high shrub cover, high tree regeneration cover and low herbaceous cover. Our results show that forest structure and, to a lesser extent, forest type determine small mammal community structure, and specifically fine-scale occurrence patterns, in these old-growth forests. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.

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Intraspecific variability in functional traits matters: Case study of Scots pine

Laforest-Lapointe I., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J. (2014) Intraspecific variability in functional traits matters: Case study of Scots pine. Oecologia. 175: 1337-1348.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1007/s00442-014-2967-x

Resumen:

Although intraspecific trait variability is an important component of species ecological plasticity and niche breadth, its implications for community and functional ecology have not been thoroughly explored. We characterized the intraspecific functional trait variability of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Catalonia (NE Spain) in order to (1) compare it to the interspecific trait variability of trees in the same region, (2) explore the relationships among functional traits and the relationships between them and stand and climatic variables, and (3) study the role of functional trait variability as a determinant of radial growth. We considered five traits: wood density (WD), maximum tree height (H max), leaf nitrogen content (Nmass), specific leaf area (SLA), and leaf biomass-to-sapwood area ratio (B L:A S). A unique dataset was obtained from the Ecological and Forest Inventory of Catalonia (IEFC), including data from 406 plots. Intraspecific trait variation was substantial for all traits, with coefficients of variation ranging between 8 % for WD and 24 % for B L:A S. In some cases, correlations among functional traits differed from those reported across species (e.g., H max and WD were positively related, whereas SLA and Nmass were uncorrelated). Overall, our model accounted for 47 % of the spatial variability in Scots pine radial growth. Our study emphasizes the hierarchy of factors that determine intraspecific variations in functional traits in Scots pine and their strong association with spatial variability in radial growth. We claim that intraspecific trait variation is an important determinant of responses of plants to changes in climate and other environmental factors, and should be included in predictive models of vegetation dynamics. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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Extreme fire severity patterns in topographic, convective and wind-driven historical wildfires of mediterranean pine forests

Lecina-Diaz J., Alvarez A., Retana J. (2014) Extreme fire severity patterns in topographic, convective and wind-driven historical wildfires of mediterranean pine forests. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085127

Resumen:

Crown fires associated with extreme fire severity are extremely difficult to control. We have assessed fire severity using differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) from Landsat imagery in 15 historical wildfires of Pinus halepensis Mill. We have considered a wide range of innovative topographic, fuel and fire behavior variables with the purposes of (1) determining the variables that influence fire severity patterns among fires (considering the 15 wildfires together) and (2) ascertaining whether different variables affect extreme fire severity within the three fire types (topographic, convective and wind-driven fires). The among-fires analysis showed that fires in less arid climates and with steeper slopes had more extreme severity. In less arid conditions there was more crown fuel accumulation and closer forest structures, promoting high vertical and horizontal fuel continuity and extreme fire severity. The analyses carried out for each fire separately (within fires) showed more extreme fire severity in areas in northern aspects, with steeper slopes, with high crown biomass and in climates with more water availability. In northern aspects solar radiation was lower and fuels had less water limitation to growth which, combined with steeper slopes, produced more extreme severity. In topographic fires there was more extreme severity in northern aspects with steeper slopes and in areas with more water availability and high crown biomass; in convection-dominated fires there was also more extreme fire severity in northern aspects with high biomass; while in wind-driven fires there was only a slight interaction between biomass and water availability. This latter pattern could be related to the fact that wind-driven fires spread with high wind speed, which could have minimized the effect of other variables. In the future, and as a consequence of climate change, new zones with high crown biomass accumulated in non-common drought areas will be available to burn as extreme severity wildfires. © 2014 Lecina-Diaz et al.

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A new look at water transport regulation in plants

Martinez-Vilalta J., Poyatos R., Aguade D., Retana J., Mencuccini M. (2014) A new look at water transport regulation in plants. New Phytologist. : 0-0.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1111/nph.12912

Resumen:

Plant function requires effective mechanisms to regulate water transport at a variety of scales. Here, we develop a new theoretical framework describing plant responses to drying soil, based on the relationship between midday and predawn leaf water potentials. The intercept of the relationship (Λ) characterizes the maximum transpiration rate per unit of hydraulic transport capacity, whereas the slope (σ) measures the relative sensitivity of the transpiration rate and plant hydraulic conductance to declining water availability. This framework was applied to a newly compiled global database of leaf water potentials to estimate the values of Λ and σ for 102 plant species. Our results show that our characterization of drought responses is largely consistent within species, and that the parameters Λ and σ show meaningful associations with climate across species. Parameter σ was ≤1 in most species, indicating a tight coordination between the gas and liquid phases of water transport, in which canopy transpiration tended to decline faster than hydraulic conductance during drought, thus reducing the pressure drop through the plant. The quantitative framework presented here offers a new way of characterizing water transport regulation in plants that can be used to assess their vulnerability to drought under current and future climatic conditions. © 2014 New Phytologist Trust.

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Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests

Regos A., Aquilue N., Retana J., De Caceres M., Brotons L. (2014) Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094906

Resumen:

Despite the huge resources invested in fire suppression, the impact of wildfires has considerably increased across the Mediterranean region since the second half of the 20th century. Modulating fire suppression efforts in mild weather conditions is an appealing but hotly-debated strategy to use unplanned fires and associated fuel reduction to create opportunities for suppression of large fires in future adverse weather conditions. Using a spatially-explicit fire-succession model developed for Catalonia (Spain), we assessed this opportunistic policy by using two fire suppression strategies that reproduce how firefighters in extreme weather conditions exploit previous fire scars as firefighting opportunities. We designed scenarios by combining different levels of fire suppression efficiency and climatic severity for a 50-year period (2000-2050). An opportunistic fire suppression policy induced large-scale changes in fire regimes and decreased the area burnt under extreme climate conditions, but only accounted for up to 18-22% of the area to be burnt in reference scenarios. The area suppressed in adverse years tended to increase in scenarios with increasing amounts of area burnt during years dominated by mild weather. Climate change had counterintuitive effects on opportunistic fire suppression strategies. Climate warming increased the incidence of large fires under uncontrolled conditions but also indirectly increased opportunities for enhanced fire suppression. Therefore, to shift fire suppression opportunities from adverse to mild years, we would require a disproportionately large amount of area burnt in mild years. We conclude that the strategic planning of fire suppression resources has the potential to become an important cost-effective fuel-reduction strategy at large spatial scale. We do however suggest that this strategy should probably be accompanied by other fuel-reduction treatments applied at broad scales if large-scale changes in fire regimes are to be achieved, especially in the wider context of climate change. © 2014 Regos et al.

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Pacific and Atlantic oceanic anomalies and their interaction with rainfall and fire in Bolivian biomes for the period 1992–2012

Roman-Cuesta R.M., Rejalaga-Noguera L., Pinto-Garcia C., Retana J. (2014) Pacific and Atlantic oceanic anomalies and their interaction with rainfall and fire in Bolivian biomes for the period 1992–2012. Climatic Change. : 0-0.
Enlace
Doi: 10.1007/s10584-014-1246-5

Resumen:

Bolivia is located at the crossroad of the major climatic influences of Northern and Southern-South America, which turns this country into a natural laboratory to investigate the interactions between ocean-climate and fire variability. We chose two oceanic indices: MEI (multivariate ENSO Index) and AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) to select the three most representative years for four oceanic conditions: El Niño, La Niña, AMO, and standard years (understood as years with little ocean influences), for the period 1992–2012. We investigated how i) rainfall (dry vs wet seasons) and ii) fire responded in five Bolivian biomes (Tropical Moist Forests, Tropical Dry Forests, Tropical Grasslands, Tropical Montane, and Seasonally Flooded ecosystems) under these oceanic conditions. Bolivia showed a strong rainfall increase in El Niño years in both seasons (wet/dry), while AMO showed the strongest droughts in both seasons. La Niña showed a bipolar response with rainfall increases in the wet season and a very marked rainfall decrease in the dry season. Drought significantly increased fire numbers in AMO years, being the most significant fire condition and suggesting a larger fire influence of the Atlantic than the Pacific at the national level. Surprisingly, the amount of fire was very large under normal years (STD) and similar to fire levels under La Niña, suggesting generalized fire conditions in the country, except for El Niño years that bring rainfall excess and little fire. The most fire-affected biomes were the seasonally flooded and dry forests, followed by the grassland/savannah biome. Montane areas showed the least fire, but satellite fire omission is well known in the Andean region.

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Variation in reproduction and growth in declining Scots pine populations

Vila-Cabrera A., Martinez-Vilalta J., Retana J. (2014) Variation in reproduction and growth in declining Scots pine populations. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 16: 111-120.
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Doi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2014.02.005

Resumen:

Disentangling how variation in reproduction and growth is linked in plants across different ecological scales, and how allocation rules change in response to stress are fundamental aspects of life history theory. Although it is known that reproductive allocation is an allometric process and that environmental conditions can influence demographic traits, patterns of variation in vegetative and reproductive functions across and within individuals of tree species suffering drought-induced decline have rarely been documented. In this study we use Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) as a model species to explore patterns of variation in cone production and growth in two declining populations at the southern edge of its distribution. A Bayesian approach was used to assess how these demographic traits vary as a function of drought effects and competition and covary across different ecological scales. The allometric trajectories relating tree size with cone production and growth differed along gradients of drought impacts and biotic interactions. Although reproduction and growth increased with tree size, cone production reached a maximum at intermediate sized trees and stabilized or decreased at larger sizes. Drought stress effects (defoliation at the tree level and overall decline at the plot level) and competition for resources reduced cone production and growth. Our results also showed differential effects of defoliation on cone production depending on tree size, with stronger effects on larger individuals. After accounting for these effects, much of the variation of demographic traits and correlations among them occurred at small ecological scales across individuals (i.e. within plots) and within individuals across years. This resulted in covariations between demographic traits among nearby individuals and within individuals through time, suggesting a consistent advantage in resource acquisition of some individuals within plots, and trade-offs between growth and cone production within trees across years. In conclusion, this study reports that drought-induced forest decline is associated with lower growth and cone production in Scots pine, which could contribute to explain the long-term impacts of drought in southern populations of this species and, in particular, its low regeneration capacity after severe drought. © 2014 Geobotanisches Institut ETH, Stiftung Ruebel.

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