Dubbert, M; Mosena, Alexander; Piayda, A; Cuntz, M; Correia, Alexandra C; Pereira, JS; Werner, C: Influence of tree cover on herbaceous layer development and carbon and water fluxes in a Portuguese cork oak woodland., Acta Oecologica (2014)
Facilitation and competition between different vegetation layers may have a large impact on small-scale vegetation development. We propose that this should not only influence overall herbaceous layer yield but also species distribution and understory longevity, and hence the ecosystems carbon uptake capacity especially during spring. We analyzed the effects of trees on microclimate and soil properties (water and nitrate content) as well as the development of an herbaceous community layer regarding species composition, aboveground biomass and net water and carbon fluxes in a cork-oak woodland in Portugal, between April and November 2011. The presence of trees caused a significant reduction in photosynthetic active radiation of 35 mol m-2 d-1 and in soil temperature of 5°C from April to October. At the same time differences in species composition between experimental plots located in open areas and directly below trees could be observed: species composition and abundance of functional groups became increasingly different between locations from mid April onwards. During late spring drought adapted native forbs had significantly higher cover and biomass in the open area while cover and biomass of grasses and nitrogen fixing forbs was highest under the trees. Further, evapotranspiration and net carbon exchange decreased significantly stronger under the tree crowns compared to the open during late spring and the die back of herbaceous plants occurred earlier and faster under trees. This was most likely caused by interspecific competition for water between trees and herbaceous plants, despite the more favorable microclimate conditions under the trees during the onset of summer drought.
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