Herbivory and plant growth rate determine the success of El Niño Southern Oscillation-driven tree establishment in semiarid South America

Holmgren M., López B.C., Gutiérrez J.R., Squeo F.A. (2006) Herbivory and plant growth rate determine the success of El Niño Southern Oscillation-driven tree establishment in semiarid South America. Global Change Biology. 12: 2263-2271.
Link
Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01261.x

Abstract:

While climatic extremes are predicted to increase with global warming, we know little about the effect of climatic variability on biome distribution. Here, we show that rainy El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events can enhance tree recruitment in the arid and semiarid ecosystems of north-central Chile and northwest Peru. Tree-ring studies in natural populations revealed that rainy El Niño episodes have triggered forest regeneration in Peru. Field experiments indicate that tree seedling recruitment in Chile is much less successful than in Peru due mostly to larger mortality caused by herbivores. The dramatic impact of herbivores in Chile was derived from the combined result of slower plant growth and the presence of exotic herbivores (European rabbits and hares). The interplay of herbivory and climatic effects we demonstrated implies that rainy ENSO events may represent 'windows of opportunity' for forest recovery if herbivore pressure is minimized at the right moment. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Climatic signals in growth and its relation to ENSO events of two Prosopis species following a latitudinal gradient in South America

López B.C., Rodríguez R., Gracia C.A., Sabaté S. (2006) Climatic signals in growth and its relation to ENSO events of two Prosopis species following a latitudinal gradient in South America. Global Change Biology. 12: 897-906.
Link
Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01138.x

Abstract:

Semiarid environments throughout the world have lost a major part of their woody vegetation and biodiversity due to the effects of wood cutting, cattle grazing and subsistence agriculture. The resulting state is typically used for cattle production, but the productivity of these systems is often very low, and erosion of the unprotected soil is a common problem. Such dry-land degradation is of great international concern, not only because the resulting state is hardly productive but also because it paves the way to desertification. The natural distribution of the genus Prosopis includes arid and semiarid zones of the Americas, Africa and Asia, but the majority of the Prosopis species are, however, native to the Americas. In order to assess a likely gradient in the response of tree species to precipitation, temperature and their connection to El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) events, two Prosopis species were chosen along a latitudinal gradient in Latin America, from northern Peru to central Chile: Prosopis pallida from a semi-arid land in northern and southern Peru and P. chilensis from a semiarid land in central Chile. Growth rings of each species were crossdated at each sampling site using classical dendrochronological techniques. Chronologies were related with instrumental climatic records in each site, as well as with SOI and N34 series. Cross-correlation, spectral and wavelet analysis techniques were used to assess the relation of growth with precipitation and temperature. Despite the long distance among sites, the two Prosopis species presented similar responses. Thus, the two species' growth is positively correlated to precipitation, while with temperature it is not. In northern Peru, precipitation and growth of P. pallida present a similar cyclic pattern, with a period of around 3 years. On the other hand, P. pallida in southern Peru, and P. chilensis also present this cyclic pattern, but also another one with lower frequency, coinciding with the pattern of precipitation. Both cycles are within the range of the ENSO band. © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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