Soil resource availability may affect plant regeneration by resprouting in disturbed environments directly, by affecting plant growth rates, or indirectly by determining allocation to storage in the resprouting organs. Allocation to storage may be higher in stressful, low resource-supply soils, but under such conditions plant growth rates may be lower. These factors could act in opposite directions leading to poorly known effects on resprouting. This paper analyses the role played by soil resources in the production and growth of resprouts after removal of above-ground plant tissues in the Mediterranean shrub Erica australis. At 13 sites, differing in substrate, we cut the base of the stems of six plants of E. australis and allowed them to resprout and grow for two years. Soils were chemically analysed and plant water potential measured during the summer at all sites to characterize soil resource availability. We used stepwise regression analysis to determine the relationships between the resprouting response [mean site values of the number of resprouts (RN), maximum length (RML) and biomass (RB)] and soil nutrient content and plant water potential at each site. During the first two years of resprouting there were statistically significant differences among sites in the variables characterizing the resprouting response. RML was always different among sites and had little relationship with lignotuber area. RN was less different among sites and was always positively correlated with lignotuber area. RB was different among sites after the two years of growth. During the first months of resprouting, RN and RML were highly and positively related to the water status of the plant during summer. At later dates soil fertility variables came into play, explaining significant amounts of variance of the resprouting variables. Soil extractable cations content was the main variable accounting for RML and RB. Our results indicate that resprout growth of E. australis is positively affected by high water availability at the beginning of the resprouting response and negatively so by high soil extractable cation content at later periods. Some of these factors had previously shown to be related, with an opposite sign, to the development of a relatively larger lignotuber. Indeed, RML and RB measured in the second year of resprouting were significantly and negatively correlated with some indices of biomass allocation to the lignotuber at each site. This indicates that sites favouring allocation to the resprouting organ may not favour resprout growth.
Abbreviations: AB = Above-ground biomass; Catextr = soil extractable cations; FB = Foliar biomass; LA = Lignotuber area; LB = Lignotuber biomass; Ntot = Soil total nitrogen; Pavail = Soil available phosphorus; RA = Root basal area; RB = Resprout biomass; RML = Resprout maximum length; RN = Resprout number; Ψpd = Predawn plant water potential.
Nomenclature: Castroviejo et al. (1986).