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Interactive responses of Quercus suber L. seedlings to light and mild water stress: effects on morphology and gas exchange traits

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Article numberARTN 611
Journal publication date09/2008
JournalAnnals of Forest Science
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish


The combined effect of water stress and light on seedlings of forest species is a key factor to determine the best silvicultural and afforestation practices in the Mediterranean area.

The aims of this work was (1) to determine the optimal light level for the early development of cork oak seedlings under mild water stress and (2) to test if the combined effect of water stress and light followed the trade-off, the facilitation or the orthogonal hypothesis.

Shade reduced instantaneous photosynthetic rates and water use efficiency in cork oak. However, seedlings grown under moderate shade (15% of full sunlight) were capable to accumulate similar amount of biomass than those grown under more illuminated environments by increasing their specific leaf area. Absolute differences in net photosynthesis between light treatments were higher in well watered than in water stressed seedlings. However, the impact of both factors on overall growth was orthogonal.

We concluded that cork oak development is impaired under deep shade (5% of full sunlight) but it can be optimal under moderate shade ( 15% of full sunlight) even under moderate water stress. Implications of these patterns on regeneration, cultivation and afforestation of cork oak are discussed.