Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Drought resistance in early and late secondary successional species from a tropical dry forest: the interplay between xylem resistance to embolism, sapwood water storage and leaf shedding.

Abstract

The mechanisms of drought resistance that allow plants to successfully establish at different stages of secondary succession in tropical dry forests are not well understood. We characterized mechanisms of drought resistance in early and late-successional species and tested whether risk of drought differs across sites at different successional stages, and whether early and late-successional species differ in resistance to experimentally imposed soil drought. The microenvironment in early successional sites was warmer and drier than in mature forest. Nevertheless, successional groups did not differ in resistance to soil drought. Late-successional species resisted drought through two independent mechanisms: high resistance of xylem to embolism, or reliance on high stem water storage capacity. High sapwood water reserves delayed the effects of soil drying by transiently decoupling plant and soil water status. Resistance to soil drought resulted from the interplay between variations in xylem vulnerability to embolism, reliance on sapwood water reserves and leaf area reduction, leading to a tradeoff of avoidance against tolerance of soil drought, along which successional groups were not differentiated. Overall, our data suggest that ranking species' performance under soil drought based solely on xylem resistance to embolism may be misleading, especially for species with high sapwood water storage capacity.