Assessment of the impacts of climate change on Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems based on data from field experiments and long-term monitored field gradients in Catalonia

Josep Peñuelas, Jordi Sardans, Iolanda Filella, Marc Estiarte, Joan Llusià, Romà Ogaya, Jofre Carnicer, Mireia Bartrons, Albert Rivas-Ubach, Oriol Grau, Guille Peguero, Olga Margalef, Sergi Pla-Rabés, Constantí Stefanescu, Dolores Asensio, Catherine Preece, Lei Liu, Aleixandre Verger, Laura Rico, Adrià BarbetaAnder Achotegui-Castells, Albert Gargallo-Garriga, Dominik Sperlich, Gerard Farré-Armengol, Marcos Fernández-Martínez, Daijun Liu, Chao Zhang, Ifigenia Urbina, Marta Camino, Maria Vives, Daniel Nadal-Sala, Santi Sabaté, Carles Gracia, Jaume Terradas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Climate change is increasing temperatures globally and drought in many regions. If climate change continues at its current rate, the resilience of many ecosystems will likely be exceeded, altering their structure and function. A consistent understanding of the impacts, however, remains elusive due to the difficulty of obtaining data of field studies at different scales from local to regional. We review the impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems of the Mediterranean region based mostly on long-term field experiments of climatic manipulation and monitored field sites in Catalonia (NE Spain). These studies provide diverse experimental and observational field evidences that rising temperatures, new patterns of precipitation and other climatic changes are already affecting ecosystems in this Mediterranean region. Rapid genetic, epigenetic and metabolomics changes in plants have been described. They have resulted in changes in morphology, physiology, growth, reproduction, and mortality. Some species are more vulnerable to these changes than others are, which has altered their competitive ability and thereby changed microbial, plant and animal community composition. Many other impacts have been observed in response to climate change, for example an increase in the emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds or an increased risk of fire and a decrease in the absorption of CO2 in periods of drought. A reduction of the capacity to retain nutrients and C in vegetation is accompanied, in the short term, by an increase in soil C and nutrient contents due to a decrease in the enzymatic capacity and mineralization of soil. The projected increase of torrential rainfalls introduces a scenario of uncertain changes in nutrient cycles, soil fertility and nutrient fluxes at medium and long terms. All these changes in water and nutrient availability suggest, though, net losses in the capacity of Mediterranean forests and shrublands to act as C sinks. Future research should quantify C in above- and belowground biomasses and soils under drought and warming, because this necessary information is lacking. Future studies should also investigate the losses of soil nutrients by leaching and erosion, and the possible feedbacks of land cover changes on water availability and regional climate. Policies of environmental and forestry management should take into account these impacts of the environmental and climatic conditions projected for the coming years and decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
JournalEnvironmental and Experimental Botany
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Climate change
  • Community and ecosystem changes
  • Drought
  • Experiments
  • Long-term
  • Management
  • Mediterranean terrestrial ecosystems
  • Molecular
  • Morphological and physiological changes
  • Nutrients
  • Observations
  • Resilience


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