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Plant Cell Environ. 2014 Feb;37(2):382-91. doi: 10.1111/pce.12160. Epub 2013 Aug 13.

Drought impact on water use efficiency and intra-annual density fluctuations in Erica arborea on Elba (Italy).

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Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies, Second University of Naples, Caserta, 81100, Italy; Centre for Bio-Archaeology and Ecology, Institut de Botanique, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (PALECO EPHE), University of Montpellier 2, Montpellier, F-34090, France.


Erica arborea (L) is a widespread Mediterranean species, able to cope with water stress and colonize semiarid environments. The eco-physiological plasticity of this species was evaluated by studying plants growing at two sites with different soil moistures on the island of Elba (Italy), through dendrochronological, wood-anatomical analyses and stable isotopes measurements. Intra-annual density fluctuations (IADFs) were abundant in tree rings, and were identified as the key parameter to understand site-specific plant responses to water stress. Our findings showed that the formation of IADFs is mainly related to the high temperature, precipitation patterns and probably to soil water availability, which differs at the selected study sites. The recorded increase in the (13) C-derived intrinsic water use efficiency at the IADFs level was linked to reduced water loss rather than to increasing C assimilation. The variation in vessel size and the different absolute values of δ(18) O among trees growing at the two study sites underlined possible differences in stomatal control of water loss and possible differences in sources of water uptake. This approach not only helped monitor seasonal environmental differences through tree-ring width, but also added valuable information on E. arborea responses to drought and their ecological implications for Mediterranean vegetation dynamics.


Mediterranean ecosystems; dendrochronology; false ring; water stress; wood anatomy

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