Elucidating the limiting factors for regeneration and successful establishment of the thermophilic tree Ziziphus spina-christi under a changing climate

Yotam Zait*, Irit Konsens, Amnon Schwartz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Due to climate change, winter temperatures are predicted to increase worldwide. For thermophilic trees, highly sensitive to low temperatures, an increase in winter temperatures may be beneficial for survival and regeneration. Ziziphus spina-christi is a thermophilic tree that has recently become more abundant and widespread in the eastern Mediterranean, presumably due to a gradual increase in winter temperatures. We aim to define the temperature limitations for seed germination and the growth and survival of young seedlings to broaden our understanding of the future geographical distribution of this species. We studied effects of temperature on germination, growth, and photosynthesis in a controlled environment with four different day/night temperature regimes (34/28 °C, 28/22 °C, 22/16 °C and 16/10 °C). Effects of endocarp on germination and seed germination in the field were also studied. Results showed that germination has a lower thermal optimum (34–22 °C, 63.5–67.5% germination) than growth and photosynthesis (34–28 °C). Moderate cold stress (22/16 °C), did not affect germination capacity, but strongly reduced seedling growth (71%) and photosynthetic capacity (44.6%). Under severe cold stress (16/10 °C), germination still occurs (22%), but seedlings cannot perform growth and photosynthesis. We conclude that slow seedling growth, not germination, is the main barrier for successful establishment of Z. spina-christi under low temperature. Warmer winters could lead to earlier establishment of seedlings and increase their chance of survival the following summer. This may explain the recent increase in the tree’s relative abundance and further highlight the potential spread of this species at higher altitudes and latitudes across the Mediterranean.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number14335
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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