Causes of variation in leaf-level drought tolerance within an Amazonian forest

Abstract : Amazonian tree communities have already been seriously impacted by extreme natural droughts, and intense droughts are predicted to increase in frequency. However, our current knowledge of Amazonian tree species' responses to water stress remains limited, as plant trait databases include few drought tolerance traits, impeding the application and predictive power of models. Here we explored how leaf water potential at turgor loss point (π tlp), a determinant of leaf drought tolerance, varies with species life history, season, tree size and irradiance within a forest in French Guiana. First, we provided a further direct validation of a rapid method of π tlp determination based on osmometer measurements of leaf osmotic potential at full hydration for five Amazonian tree species. Next, we analysed a dataset of 131 π tlp values for a range of species, seasons, size (including saplings), and leaf exposure. We found that early-successional species had less drought-tolerant leaves than late-successional species. Species identity was the major driver of π tlp variation, whereas season, canopy tree size and leaf exposure explained little variation. Shifts in π tlp from saplings to canopy trees varied across species, and sapling leaf drought tolerance was a moderate predictor of canopy tree leaf drought tolerance. Given its low within-species variability, we propose that π tlp is a robust trait, and is useful as one index of species' drought tolerance. We also suggest that measuring this trait would considerably advance our knowledge on leaf drought tolerance in hyperdiverse communities and would thus likely shed light on the resilience of such vulnerable species-rich ecosystem.
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Journal of Plant Hydraulics, INRA Editions, 2016, 3, pp.e004. 〈http://www6.inra.fr/jph/Articles/2016/JPH-3-e004〉
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Isabelle Maréchaux, Megan K. Bartlett, Philippe Gaucher, Lawren Sack, Jérôme Chave. Causes of variation in leaf-level drought tolerance within an Amazonian forest. Journal of Plant Hydraulics, INRA Editions, 2016, 3, pp.e004. 〈http://www6.inra.fr/jph/Articles/2016/JPH-3-e004〉. 〈hal-01265274〉

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