Plant functional groups within a tropical forest exhibit different wood functional anatomy

Apgaua, Deborah M.G., Tng, David Y.P., Cernusak, Lucas A., Cheesman, Alexander W., Santos, Rubens M., Edwards, Will J., and Laurance, Susan G.W. (2017) Plant functional groups within a tropical forest exhibit different wood functional anatomy. Functional Ecology, 31 (3). pp. 582-591.

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1. Understanding the anatomical basis of plant water transport in forest ecosystems is crucial for contextualizing community-level adaptations to drought, especially in life-form-rich tropical forests. To provide this context, we explored wood functional anatomy traits related to plant hydraulic architecture across different plant functional groups in a lowland tropical rain forest.

2. We measured wood traits in 90 species from six functional groups (mature-phase, understorey and pioneer trees; understorey and pioneer shrubs; vines) and related these traits to intrinsic water-use efficiency (WUEᵢ) as a measure of physiological performance. We also examined vessel size distribution patterns across groups to determine trade-offs in theoretical hydraulic safety vs. efficiency.

3. Some plant functional groups exhibited significant differences in vessel parameters and WUEᵢ. Vessel diameters in vines and pioneer trees were two- to threefold greater on average than in understorey trees and shrubs. Contrastingly, vessels in understorey trees and shrubs fell within the smaller size classes, suggesting greater safety mechanisms. In addition to these trends, large vessel dimensions were important predictors of WUEi among the functional groups.

4. We conclude that wood functional anatomy profiles varied across plant functional groups in a tropical rain forest. These groups can therefore serve as a framework for further investigations on structure–function relationships and a sound basis for modelling species responses to drought.

Item ID: 46727
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2435
Keywords: rainforest plants; wood anatomy; physiology; ecology
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Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (SRF), Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES, Brazil)
Projects and Grants: ARC Future Fellowship Grant FT130101319
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2017 03:57
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3007 Forestry sciences > 300703 Forest ecosystems @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3108 Plant biology > 310806 Plant physiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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