Warming and drought alter soil phosphatase activity and soil P availability in a Mediterranean shrubland

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We conducted a field experiment simulating the warming and drought in a Mediterranean shrubland dominated by Erica multiflora and Globularia alypum with the aim to simulate the next future climate conditions predicted by the IPCC and ecophysiological models. As P is frequently a limiting nutrient in Mediterranean ecosystems, we investigated the drought and warming effects on soil phosphatases activities, soil P contents and availability, litter and leaf P concentration, and the capacity of this community to maintain soil P reserves and retain this nutrient in the ecosystem. Warming treatment increased soil and air temperature (an average of 1°C) and drought treatment decreased soil water content in one of the seasons analysed (28% in autum 2004). Warming increased (68%) the activities of soil acid phosphatases in summer and alkaline phosphatase activity (22%) in spring 2004, and increased P concentrations in E. multiflora. Instead, warming decreased P concentrations in litterfall of this same species, E. multiflora, and soil HCO3-extractable Pi (Olsen-Pi) in some seasons, decreasing total P soil concentration (37%) after 6 years of treatment. The drought treatment did not change soil phosphatase activities, nor available Pi. The effects of climate change on soil P dynamics in Mediterranean areas will thus be strongly dependent on whether the main variable involved in the local change is warming or drought. If warming is the main change without significant changes in water availability, the increases of biological activity can accelerate plant growth, P capture by plants and increase soil-phosphatase activity, altogether decreasing P contents in soil. If drought is the main change, a reduction in P demands by plants is expected, increasing P stocks in soils.

Keywords: Acid and alkaline phosphatases - Climate change - Drought - Phosphorus - Warming



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