Climate Change Threatens Coexistence within Communities of Mediterranean Forested Wetlands

Arianna Di Paola, Riccardo Valentini, Francesco Paparella

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The Mediterranean region is one of the hot spots of climate change. This study aims at understanding what are the conditions sustaining tree diversity in Mediterranean wet forests under future scenarios of altered hydrological regimes. The core of the work is a quantitative, dynamic model describing the coexistence of different Mediterranean tree species, typical of arid or semi-arid wetlands. Two kind of species, i.e. Hygrophilous (drought sensitive, flood resistant) and Non-hygrophilous (drought resistant, flood sensitive), are broadly defined according to the distinct adaptive strategies of trees against water stress of summer drought and winter flooding. We argue that at intermediate levels of water supply the dual role of water (resource and stress) results in the coexistence of the two kind of species. A bifurcation analysis allows us to assess the effects of climate change on the coexistence of the two species in order to highlight the impacts of predicted climate scenarios on tree diversity. Specifically, the model has been applied to Mediterranean coastal swamp forests of Central Italy located at Castelporziano Estate and Circeo National Park. Our results show that there are distinct rainfall thresholds beyond which stable coexistence becomes impossible. Regional climatic projections show that the lower rainfall threshold may be approached or crossed during the XXI century, calling for an urgent adaptation and mitigation response to prevent biodiversity losses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere44727
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 8 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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