In tropical forest canopies, it is critical for upper shoots to efficiently provide water to leaves for physiological function while safely preventing loss of hydraulic conductivity due to cavitation during periods of soil water deficit or high evaporative demand. We compared hydraulic physiology of upper canopy trees and lianas in a seasonally dry tropical forest to test whether trade-offs between safety and efficiency of water transport shape differences in hydraulic function between these two major tropical woody growth forms. We found that lianas showed greater maximum stem-specific hydraulic conductivity than trees, but lost hydraulic conductivity at less negative water potentials than trees, resulting in a negative correlation and trade-off between safety and efficiency of water transport. Lianas also exhibited greater diurnal changes in leaf water potential than trees. The magnitude of diurnal water potential change was negatively correlated with sapwood capacitance, indicating that lianas are highly reliant on conducting capability to maintain leaf water status, whereas trees relied more on stored water in stems to maintain leaf water status. Leaf nitrogen concentration was related to maximum leaf-specific hydraulic conductivity only for lianas suggesting that greater water transport capacity is more tied to leaf processes in lianas compared to trees. Our results are consistent with a trade-off between safety and efficiency of water transport and may have implications for increasing liana abundance in neotropical forests.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was supported by STRI Introduction to Neotropical Research and Culture Internship Program to MED and National Science Foundation (DEB 0845071 and DEB 1019436 to SAS).
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