Biotic interactions in a Mediterranean oak forest: role
of allelopathy along phenological development of woody species
Received: 22 June 2017 / Accepted: 7 July 2017 / Published online: 18 July 2017
Ó Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
Abstract Plant–plant chemical interactions in forests can
have a strong impact on the biodiversity and dynamics of
these ecosystems, particularly in Mediterranean forests
where plants exhibit a high secondary metabolite diversity.
Allelopathic interactions in Mediterranean ecosystems
have been mostly studied in the ﬁrst stages of ecosystem
dynamics, shrublands and pine forests, but little is known
about these interactions in mature oak forests. In this study,
the allelopathic effect of three main woody species of
downy oak forests (Quercus pubescens, Acer monspessu-
lanum and Cotinus coggygria) on germination and growth
of two herbaceous species (Festuca ovina and Linum per-
enne) was tested through aqueous extracts obtained from
different leaf phenological stages (green, senescent and
litter). The germination velocity of the two target species
was inhibited by the aqueous extracts of senescent leaves
from all the woody species. The growth of F. ovina seed-
lings was affected by aqueous extracts of green leaves of
all the woody species, while the growth of L. perenne was
only affected by aqueous extracts of green leaves of A.
monspessulanum. This shows that (i) allelochemicals
released by leaf leachates of the dominant woody species
could control the dynamic of the herbaceous species, and
then their potential competition with trees and (ii) allelo-
pathic effects of woody species are related to their phe-
nological stage and seem consistent with the development
stage of target species.
Keywords Allelopathy Á Forest ecosystem Á Plant–plant
interaction Á Phenological stage
Plant communities within ecosystems are governed by
biotic interactions, especially plant–plant interactions. For
instance, chemical interactions play a key role on germi-
nation and growth of plant species (Callaway and Walker
1997; Fernandez et al. 2013) demonstrating the potential
implication of allelopathy in ecosystem functioning (Mul-
ler 1969; Wardle et al. 1998; Inderjit et al. 2011).
Allelopathy is deﬁned as the beneﬁcial or harmful inﬂu-
ence that a plant exerts over other plants through the
release of secondary metabolites into the environment
(Rice 1984). This process is particularly studied in
agrosystems (Narwal 2000; Cheng and Cheng 2015)asa
natural alternative to herbicides (Cheng and Cheng 2015).
However, much less attention has been given to the role of
allelopathy in natural ecosystem functioning (Inderjit et al.
2011; Meiners et al. 2012). Forest ecosystems are partic-
ularly complex, multi-layered ecosystems where trees and
understory plants can inﬂuence each other through
resource-mediated interactions such as light interception
(Beaudet et al. 2011) but also chemical interactions (Mallik
2008; Fernandez et al. 2013).
Mediterranean forest ecosystems have a highly discon-
tinuous functioning related to alternating dry and wet
Communicated by Lluı
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s10342-017-1066-z) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
& A. Bousquet-Me
Aix Marseille Univ, Univ Avignon, CNRS, IRD, IMBE,
de Rennes 1 - OSUR, UMR CNRS 6553 ECOBIO,
Avenue du Ge
ral Leclerc, 35042 Rennes, France
Eur J Forest Res (2017) 136:699–710