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Special Issue "Effects of Rain on Shrub Ecosystems"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Quality and Ecosystems".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Paolo De Angelis

University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ecophysiology of woody plants; forest ecology; phytoremediation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

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.


  1. 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).
  2. Latham, J., Cumani, R., Rosati, I. & Bloise, M. Global land cover SHARE (GLC-SHARE). Food Agric. Organ. United Nations (2014).
  3. 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).
  4. Beier, C. et al. Carbon and nitrogen balances for six shrublands across Europe. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 23, (2009).
  5. 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
  6. 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).
  7. Estiarte, M. et al. Few multiyear precipitation-reduction experiments find a shift in the productivity-precipitation relationship. Glob. Chang. Biol. 22, 2570–2581 (2016).
  8. 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).
  9. Kröel-Dulay, G. et al. Increased sensitivity to climate change in disturbed ecosystems. Nat. Commun. 6, 6682 (2015).
  10. 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).
  11. Cramer, W. et al. Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the Mediterranean. Nat. Clim. Chang. 8, 972–980 (2018).
  12. Schuur, E. A. G. et al. Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback. Nature 520, 171–179 (2015).
  13. 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).
  14. Zhu, Z. et al. Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nat. Clim. Chang. 6, 791–795 (2016).

Prof. Dr. Paolo De Angelis
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • 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

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Potential of Shrubs, Shore Vegetation and Macrophytes of a Lake to Function as a Phytogeochemical Barrier against Biogenic Substances of Various Origin
Water 2019, 11(2), 290; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020290
Received: 9 January 2019 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 31 January 2019 / Published: 7 February 2019
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The objective of this study was to perform a comprehensive botanical analysis of shore and littoral vegetation of a model mesotrophic lake and investigate their effectiveness as a phytogeochemical barrier against biogens of various origin. A lake catchment was characterised by natural (forests) [...] Read more.
The objective of this study was to perform a comprehensive botanical analysis of shore and littoral vegetation of a model mesotrophic lake and investigate their effectiveness as a phytogeochemical barrier against biogens of various origin. A lake catchment was characterised by natural (forests) as well as anthropogenic land use (extensive agriculture and stationary and unorganised recreation), generating a determined variability in the load of biogenic substances to lake waters. High potential effectiveness of the phytogeochemical barriers of the analysed phytocoenoses in the assimilation of biogenic substances was found to be particularly related to: species richness, diversity of life forms, presence of specific groups and species of plants and width of the buffer zone. This situation results from the natural properties of the habitat and the modifying effect of anthropogenic transformations in the catchment, affecting the biocoenotic composition of the shore and littoral vegetation of the lake, and therefore shaping the structure of its buffer zones. The morphometric parameters and hydrological conditions of the catchment, combined with variable human pressure and modified by the effectiveness of ecotone biogeochemical barriers, contribute to the mesotrophic limnological status of the lake. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effects of Rain on Shrub Ecosystems)

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