Water and forests in the Mediterranean hot climate zone: a review based on a hydraulic interpretation of tree functioning

Teresa Soares David, Clara Assunção Pinto, Nadezhda Nadezhdina, Jorge Soares David


Aim of the study: Water scarcity is the main limitation to forest growth and tree survival in the Mediterranean hot climate zone. This paper reviews literature on the relations between water and forests in the region, and their implications on forest and water resources management. The analysis is based on a hydraulic interpretation of tree functioning.

Area of the study: The review covers research carried out in the Mediterranean hot climate zone, put into perspective of wider/global research on the subject. The scales of analysis range from the tree to catchment levels.

Material and Methods: For literature review we used Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar as bibliographic databases. Data from two Quercus suber sites in Portugal were used for illustrative purposes.

Main results: We identify knowledge gaps and discuss options to better adapt forest management to climate change under a tree water use/availability perspective. Forest management is also discussed within the wider context of catchment water balance: water is a constraint for biomass production, but also for other human activities such as urban supply, industry and irrigated agriculture.

Research highlights: Given the scarce and variable (in space and in time) water availability in the region, further research is needed on: mapping the spatial heterogeneity of water availability to trees; adjustment of tree density to local conditions; silvicultural practices that do not damage soil properties or roots; irrigation of forest plantations in some specific areas; tree breeding. Also, a closer cooperation between forest and water managers is needed.

Keywords: tree hydraulics; tree mortality; climate change; forest management; water resources.


Tree hydraulics; Tree mortality; Climate change; Forest management; Water resources

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2016252-08899

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