Interaction effects of different stressors, such as extreme drought and plant invasion, can have detrimental effects on ecosystem functioning and recovery after drought. With ongoing climate change and increasing plant invasion, there is an urgent need to predict the short- and long-term interaction impacts of these stressors on ecosystems.
We established a combined precipitation exclusion and shrub invasion (Cistus ladanifer) experiment in a Mediterranean cork oak (Quercus suber) ecosystem with four treatments: (1) Q. suber control; (2) Q. suber with rain exclusion; (3) Q. suber invaded by shrubs; and (4) Q. suber with rain exclusion
In an average precipitation year, the interaction effects of both stressors were neutral. However, the combination of imposed drought and shrub invasion led to amplifying interaction effects during an extreme drought by strongly reducing tree transpiration. Contrarily, the imposed drought reduced the competitiveness of the shrubs in the following recovery period, which buffered the negative effects of shrub invasion on Q. suber.
Our results demonstrate the highly dynamic and nonlinear effects of interacting stressors on ecosystems and urges for further investigations on biotic interactions in a context of climate change pressures.