, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 53–71 | Cite as

Pathogen-induced tree mortality interacts with predicted climate change to alter soil respiration and nutrient availability in Mediterranean systems

  • José Manuel AvilaEmail author
  • Antonio Gallardo
  • Lorena Gómez-Aparicio


Ecosystems worldwide must simultaneously cope with several global change drivers with potential strong effects on ecosystem functioning. These drivers might interact in unexpected ways, but our still limited understanding of these interactive effects precludes us from predicting the impact of global change on ecosystem functioning. In this study we assessed the direct effects of pathogen-induced tree mortality and predicted warming and drought on C, N and P in Mediterranean forest soils affected by the decline of their dominant tree species (i.e. Quercus suber) due to the invasive pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi. We also explored the potential indirect effects due to species replacement after Q. suber mortality. To achieve our goal, we conducted a soil incubation experiment using soils collected under Q. suber trees with different health status (i.e. healthy, defoliated and dead trees) and from coexistent shrubs (i.e. pioneer and late successional shrubs). These soils were incubated under controlled temperatures and soil moistures, mimicking various climate change scenarios predicted for 2050 and 2100 in the Mediterranean Basin. Our results showed that P. cinnamomi-induced mortality and future warming and drought may interact to simultaneously alter biogeochemical cycles in Q. suber forest soils. Resistance of studied variables to changes in temperature and moisture tended to be lower for dead trees than for healthy and defoliated trees. Moreover, we found that soil respiration and nutrient availability might be affected indirectly by P. cinnamomi-induced mortality due to species replacement. Overall, our results support a high potential of invasive pathogen species for modifying the response of soil functioning to climatic stressors.


Aridity Climate change Drought Forest disease Global change Mediterranean shrubs Non-additive effects Oak decline Pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi Quercus suber Soil nutrients Soil respiration Warming 



We thank the director and technicians of Los Alcornocales Natural Park for facilities and support to carry out the field work. We specially thank to Ana Prado and Ana Pozuelos for invaluable field and laboratory assistance. This research was supported by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN) projects CGL2010-21381, CGL2011-26877 (RETROBOS) and CGL2014-56739-R (INTERCAPA). J.M.A. was supported by a FPU-MEC Grant (AP2010-0229).

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología (IRNAS, CSIC)SevilleSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Sistemas Físicos, Químicos y NaturalesUniversidad Pablo de OlavideSevilleSpain
  3. 3.Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LINCGlobal)Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología (IRNAS, CSIC)SevilleSpain

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