Tropical dry forest trees and lianas differ in leaf economic spectrum traits but have overlapping water-use strategies

Leland K. Werden, Bonnie G. Waring, Christina M. Smith-Martin, Jennifer S Powers

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41 Scopus citations


Tree species in tropical dry forests employ a wide range of strategies to cope with seasonal drought, including regulation of hydraulic function. However, it is uncertain if co-occurring lianas also possess a diversity of strategies. For a taxonomically diverse group of 14 tree and 7 liana species, we measured morphological and hydraulic functional traits during an unusual drought and under non-drought conditions to determine (i) if trees have different water-use strategies than lianas and (ii) if relationships among these traits can be used to better understand how tree and liana species regulate diurnal leaf water potential (Ψdiurnal). In this Costa Rican tropical dry forest, lianas and trees had overlapping water-use strategies, but differed in many leaf economic spectrum traits. Specifically, we found that both lianas and trees employed a diversity of Ψdiurnal regulation strategies, which did not differ statistically. However, lianas and trees did significantly differ in terms of certain traits including leaf area, specific leaf area, petiole length, wood vessel diameter and xylem vessel density. All liana and tree species we measured fell along a continuum of isohydric (partial) to anisohydric (strict or extreme) Ψdiurnal regulation strategies, and leaf area, petiole length, stomatal conductance and wood vessel diameter correlated with these strategies. These findings contribute to a trait-based understanding of how plants regulate Ψdiurnal under both drought stress and sufficient water availability, and underscore that lianas and trees employ a similarly wide range of Ψdiurnal regulation strategies, despite having vastly different growth forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-530
Number of pages14
JournalTree physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a US National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Student Research Fellowship grant 11-582 to L.K.W., a NSF CAREER Award DEB-1053237 to J.S.P. and the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) Program under award number DE-SC0014363 to J.S.P. and B.G.W.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Drought
  • Leaf water potential
  • Plant functional traits
  • Plant hydraulics
  • Tropical dry forest
  • Water transport


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