Effects of environmental change, including drought, on water use by competing Calluna vulgaris (heather) and Pteridium aquilinum (bracken)

C Gordon, S J Woodin, C E Mullins, I J Alexander

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Abstract

1. Competition for water between Calluna vulgaris (heather) and Pteridium aquilinum (bracken) was studied in conditions of increased temperature, drought and increased nitrogen supply. All these factors increased the intensity of competition for water, with the combination of drought and increased nitrogen having the greatest effect on water use.

2, Both species increased water-use efficiency in response to increased nitrogen and drought. The effects of temperature were however, equivocal. Calluna had a greater water demand than Pteridium but acclimated to water stress more readily.

3, Calluna was the superior competitor for water; its water-use efficiency was reduced as a consequence of its roots depleting water from the Pteridium rooting zone. Pteridium, the poorer competitor, increased water-use efficiency to cope with reduced water availability owing to competition.

4. There was a strong relationship between carbon isotope discrimination (Delta) and instantaneous water-use efficiency for both species, but discrimination provided a more sensitive measure of seasonal water-use efficiency. Reconstruction of the plant's history of wafer-use efficiency by retrospective measurement of Delta proved a useful technique for Calluna leaves but was inappropriate for Pteridium rhizome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-106
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume13
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Keywords

  • carbon isotope discrimination
  • competition
  • nitrogen
  • temperature
  • water-use efficiency
  • CARBON-ISOTOPE DISCRIMINATION
  • LEAF GAS-EXCHANGE
  • USE EFFICIENCY
  • ALTITUDINAL TRENDS
  • NITROGEN
  • PLANTS
  • PHOTOSYNTHESIS
  • RESPONSES
  • CONDUCTANCE
  • TEMPERATURE

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