PRECIPITATION DEFICITS AND HIGH TEMPERATURE INCREASE LEAF LITTERFALL IN OPEN RESTINGA VEGETATION, IN SOUTHERN BRAZIL

Anderson da Rocha Gripp, Luísa Alícida Fernandes Tavares, Letícia da Silva Brito, Adriano Caliman, André Tavares Corrêa Dias, Eduardo Arcoverde de Mattos, Dora Villela, Ana Paula Silva, Francisco de Assis Esteves, Rodrigo Lemes Martins

Abstract


Climate is an important driver of litterfall along different ecosystems. However, little is known about how climate affects litter production in plant communities of Restinga. The aim of this study is to characterize the temporal variation in leaf litter production in an Open Clusia Formation in Restinga de Jurubatiba National Park, from 2001 to 2018, and assess how local variability in litter production reflects the local climatic conditions and its variability. We tested the hypothesis that monthly leaf litterfall increases in dry months and in drier and warmer than average months; we also evaluated if annual leaf litterfall increases in wetter and warmer years following leaf production patterns, that increases in these conditions. We found that litterfall peaks in the drier months. This pattern is consistent for many tropical ecosystems, even evergreen ecosystems, and may have evolved as a strategy that result in reduced water stress by plants, during drier and warmer periods, or may simply be a stress symptom. However, we also found that decreases in monthly rainfall and increases in monthly ∆Temperature (temperature observed minus estimated based on 1970-2000 interval) stimulate leaf litter production. Hot and warmer than average years also seem to stimulate leaf litterfall. It suggests that annual leaf litterfall and leaf production are less affected by precipitation regimes than variations in temperature (or radiation, which is directly related to temperature). It may result from the fact that Clusia hilariana, the dominant species in this ecosystem which accounts to 80 % of leaf litterfall, is a CAM photosynthesis species, a characteristic commonly associated with avoidance of water stress by plants. Although leaf litterfall seems to be predominantly driven by climate at annual scale, only 15 % of its variation was associated to climate at seasonal scale, suggesting that local factors control litterfall at lower temporal scales in Open Clusia Formation.


Keywords


Climatic variability; coastal sand dune vegetation; litter production; open Clusia formation.

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