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Stand Competition Determines How Different Tree Species Will Cope with a Warming Climate

Abstract : Plant-plant interactions influence how forests cope with climate and contribute to modulate species response to future climate scenarios. We analysed the functional relationships between growth, climate and competition for Pinus sylvestris, Quercus pyrenaica and Quercus faginea to investigate how stand competition modifies forest sensitivity to climate and simulated how annual growth rates of these species with different drought tolerance would change throughout the 21st century. Dendroecological data from stands subjected to thinning were modelled using a novel multiplicative nonlinear approach to overcome biases related to the general assumption of a linear relationship between covariates and to better mimic the biological relationships involved. Growth always decreased exponentially with increasing competition, which explained more growth variability than climate in Q. faginea and P. sylvestris. The effect of precipitation was asymptotic in all cases, while the relationship between growth and temperature reached an optimum after which growth declined with warmer temperatures. Our growth projections indicate that the less drought-tolerant P. sylvestris would be more negatively affected by climate change than the studied sub-Mediterranean oaks. Q. faginea and P. sylvestris mean growth would decrease under all the climate change scenarios assessed. However, P. sylvestris growth would decline regardless of the competition level, whereas this decrease would be offset by reduced competition in Q. faginea. Conversely, Q. pyrenaica growth would remain similar to current rates, except for the warmest scenario. Our models shed light on the nature of the species-specific interaction between climate and competition and yield important implications for management. Assuming that individual growth is directly related to tree performance, trees under low competition would better withstand the warmer conditions predicted under climate change scenarios but in a variable manner depending on the species. Thinning following an exponential rule may be desirable to ensure long-term conservation of high-density Mediterranean woodlands, particularly in drought-limited sites.
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Laura Fernández-De-Uña, Isabel Cañellas, Guillermo Gea-Izquierdo. Stand Competition Determines How Different Tree Species Will Cope with a Warming Climate. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (e0122255), ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0122255⟩. ⟨hal-01217091⟩

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