The rainfall reduction and the temperature increase forecasted for Mediterranean regions would likely increase the vegetation water stress and decrease productivity in rainfed agriculture. Olive trees, which have traditionally been grown under rainfed conditions, are one of the most characteristic tree crops from the Mediterranean not only for economical importance but also for minimizing erosion and desertification and for improving the carbon balance of these areas. In order to simulate how climatic change could alter soil moisture dynamics, biomass growth and fruit productivity, a water driven crop model is used in this study. The model quantitatively links olive yield to climate and soil moisture dynamics using an ecohydrological model, which simulates soil moisture, evapotranspiration and assimilation dynamics of olive orchards. The model is able to explicitly reproduce two different hydrological and climatic phases in Mediterranean areas: the well-watered conditions and the actual conditions, where the limitations induced by soil moisture availability are taken into account. Annual olive yield is obtained by integrating the carbon assimilation during the growing season, including the effects of vegetation water stress on biomass allocation. The numerical model, previously calibrated on an olive orchard located in Sicily (Italy) with a satisfactory reproduction of historical olive yield data, has been forced with future climate scenarios generated using a stochastic weather generator which allows for the downscaling of an ensemble of climate model outputs. The stochastic downscaling is carried out using simulations of some General Circulation Models adopted in the IPCC 4AR for future scenarios. In particular, 2010, 2050, 2090 and 2130 scenarios have been analyzed.
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