Special Issue "Effects of Rain on Shrub Ecosystems"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).
Natural shrublands (scrubland and heathland) are widely diffuse at the global level, where the relatively harsh environmental conditions are limiting the development of trees. They separate/connects plant communities growing in more favourable conditions, dominated by trees, or in more extreme conditions, limiting the diffusion of shrubs (deserts, coastal sand dunes, and grasslands above tree-line limits). Additional disturbances (recurrent fire, wind storm, avalanches and landslides, turbulent river floods, and others), also in combination with nutrient-poor soils, can inhibit tree regeneration or survival in local areas, thus creating conditions for the dominance of shrubs.
Some of the most extensive natural shrublands are found in regions with a semi-arid or Mediterranean climate, where seasonal drought and recurrent fires play an important role in their maintenance. On the other hand, Arctic shrubland dominate where climates are too cool or offer too brief of a warm season to permit tree growth. Comparable but smaller areas of alpine shrubland are found on many high mountains.
In addition to the natural ones, human-induced shrublands are a consequence of grazing management, or of agricultural abandonment. Under these circumstances, a fast change of cover could occur if the human pressure is ceased.
Where natural shrublands have existed for a long period, plant diversity can be very high; nevertheless, the species diversity observed in the shrublands of the Mediterranean Basin has been structured according to the different fire regimes (1).
In accordance with a recent assessment (2), the shrubs covered areas represent 9.5% of the global land, with an elevated temporal dynamic. Furthermore, because of the limited vertical development of the shrub species, the leaf area index is limited to an average value of 2.1 (3); meanwhile, the biomass pools and fluxes can be in the magnitude of grassland and some order of magnitude lower than forests (4).
Climate change, in particular the change of rainfall regimes (5), adds new pressures in the dynamic equilibrium of shrubland, producing impacts at different levels of ecosystem complexity (6, 7, 8), as well as in their interaction with previous disturbance regimes, which, in turn, can increase sensitivity to the climate drivers (9).
For a specific region such as the Mediterranean Basin, the impact of the changing rainfall regime can be beyond a simple drought limitation on the productivity, activating more complex interactions among ecosystem stability and human society (10, 11). On the other hand, the accelerated warming of the artic region, and the feedback on the permafrost and on the greening of high latitude regions (12, 13, 14), can alter the carbon exchanges between the vegetation and terrestrial water systems.
Considering the elevated space- and time-scales’ “plasticity” of shrubland communities, these could play an important role as a buffer of climate change, supporting the ecosystems’ recovery after extreme events, as well as accompanying the linear trends of climate change.
According to the above-mentioned characteristics and vulnerability, the aim of this Special Issue is to create a comprehensive analysis on the feedbacks of shrublands on water and the carbon cycle, in response to rainfall driver.
- Pausas, J. G., Llovet, J., Anselm, R. & Vallejo, R. Are wildfires a disaster in the Mediterranean basin ? – A review Vegetation changes Shrublands dominated by resprouting species. Int. J. Wildl. Fire 17, 713–723 (2008).
- Latham, J., Cumani, R., Rosati, I. & Bloise, M. Global land cover SHARE (GLC-SHARE). Food Agric. Organ. United Nations (2014).
- Asner, G. P., Scurlock, J. M. O. & A. Hicke, J. Global synthesis of leaf area index observations: implications for ecological and remote sensing studies. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 12, 191–205 (2003).
- Beier, C. et al. Carbon and nitrogen balances for six shrublands across Europe. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 23, (2009).
- Lausier, A. M. & Jain, S. Overlooked Trends in Observed Global Annual Precipitation Reveal Underestimated Risks. 1–7 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-34993-5
- Wessel, W. W. et al. A Qualitative Ecosystem Assessment for Different Shrublands in Western Europe under Impact of Climate Change. Ecosystems 7, 662–671 (2004).
- Estiarte, M. et al. Few multiyear precipitation-reduction experiments find a shift in the productivity-precipitation relationship. Glob. Chang. Biol. 22, 2570–2581 (2016).
- PEÑUELAS, J. et al. Response of plant species richness and primary productivity in shrublands along a north–south gradient in Europe to seven years of experimental warming and drought: reductions in primary productivity in the heat and drought year of 2003. Glob. Chang. Biol. 13, 2563–2581 (2007).
- Kröel-Dulay, G. et al. Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems. Nat. Commun. 6, 6682 (2015).
- Doblas-Miranda, E. et al. A review of the combination among global change factors in forests, shrublands and pastures of the Mediterranean Region: Beyond drought effects. Glob. Planet. Change 148, 42–54 (2017).
- Cramer, W. et al. Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the Mediterranean. Nat. Clim. Chang. 8, 972–980 (2018).
- Schuur, E. A. G. et al. Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback. Nature 520, 171–179 (2015).
- Aalto, J., Harrison, S. & Luoto, M. Statistical modelling predicts almost complete loss of major periglacial processes in Northern Europe by 2100. Nat. Commun. 8, 515 (2017).
- Zhu, Z. et al. Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nat. Clim. Chang. 6, 791–795 (2016).
Prof. Dr. Paolo De Angelis
Manuscript Submission Information
Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.
Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.
Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.
- Shrubland ecology
- vegetation biodiversity
- impacts of climate changes
- vegetation dynamic
- biogeochemical cycles
- rainfall variability
- ecosystem services
- plant-soil relationships
- ecophysiology of woody plants
- plant ecology