The olive tree: a paradigm for drought tolerance in Mediterranean climates

Olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is commonly grown in the Mediterranean basin where prolonged droughts may occur during the vegetative period. This species has developed a series of physiological mechanisms to tolerate drought stress and grow under adverse climatic conditions that can be observed in numerous plants of the Mediterranean macchia. These mechanisms have been investigated through an experimental campaign carried out over both irrigated and drought-stressed plants in order to comprehend the plant response under stressed conditions and its ability to recover. Experimental results show that olive plants subjected to water deficit lower the water content and water potentials of their tissues, establishing a particularly high potential gradient between leaves and roots, and stop canopy growth but not photosynthetic activity and transpiration. This allows the continuous production of assimilates as well as their accumulation in the various plant parts, so creating a higher root/leaf ratio if compared to well-watered plants. Active and passive osmotic adjustment due to the accumulation of sugars (in particular mannitol and glucose), proline and other osmolytes has a key role in maintaining cell turgor and leaf activities. At severe drought-stress levels, the non-stomatal component of photosynthesis is inhibited and a light-dependent inactivation of the photosystem II occurs. Finally, the activities of some antioxidant enzymes involved in the scavenging of activated oxygen species and in other biochemical pathways, increase during a period of drought. The present paper provides an overview of the driving mechanisms adopted by olive trees to face drought stress with the aim of better understand plant-soil interactions.

How to cite: A. Sofo, S. Manfreda, B. Dichio, M. Fiorentino and C. Xiloyannis, The olive tree: a paradigm for drought tolerance in Mediterranean climates, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 4, Pages 2811–2835, 2007. [pdf]

On the coupled geomorphological and ecohydrological organization of river basins

This paper examines the linkage between the drainage network and the patterns of soil water balance components determined by the organization of vegetation, soils and climate in a semiarid river basin. Research during the last 10 years has conclusively shown an increasing degree of organization and unifying principles behind the structure of the drainage network and the three-dimensional geometry of river basins. This cohesion exists despite the infinite variety of shapes and forms one observes in natural watersheds. What has been relatively unexplored in a quantitative and general manner is the question of whether or not the interaction of vegetation, soils, and climate also display a similar set of unifying characteristics among the very different patterns they presents in river
basins. A recently formulated framework for the water balance at the daily level links the observed patterns of basin organization to the soil moisture dynamics. Using available geospatial data, we assign soil, climate, and vegetation properties across the basin and analyze the probabilistic characteristics of steady-state soil moisture distribution. We investigate the presence of organization through the analysis of the spatial patterns of the steady-state soil moisture distribution, as well as in the distribution of observed vegetation patterns, simulated vegetation dynamic water stress and hydrological fluxes such as transpiration. Here we show that the drainage network acts as a template for the organization of both vegetation and hydrological patterns, which exhibit self-affine characteristics in their distribution across the river basin. Our analyses suggest the existence of a balance between the large-scale determinants of vegetation pattern reflecting optimality in the response to water stress and the random small-scale patterns that arise from local factors and ecological legacies such as those caused by dispersal, disturbance, and founder effects.

How to cite: Caylor, K.K., S. Manfreda, I. Rodríguez-Iturbe, On the Coupled Geomorphological and Ecohydrological Organization of River BasinsAdvances in Water Resources, 28(1), 69-86, (doi: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2004.08.013), 2005.  [pdf]