Leaf phenology is associated with soil water availability and xylem traits in a tropical dry forest

Rodrigo Méndez-Alonzo, Fernando Pineda-Garcia, Horacio Paz, Julieta A. Rosell, Mark E. Olson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    71 Citations (Scopus)


    In tropical dry forests, spatial heterogeneity in soil water availability is thought to determine interspecific differences in key components of resource use strategies, such as leaf phenology and xylem function. To understand the environmental drivers of variation in leaf phenology and xylem function, we explored the relation of soil water potential to topographic metrics derived from a digital elevation model. Subsequently, we compared nine xylem hydraulic, mechanical and storage traits in 18 species in three phenological classes (readily deciduous, tardily deciduous, and evergreen) in the dry tropical forest of Chamela, Mexico. Soil water potential was negatively correlated with elevation, insolation and water flow accumulation. Evergreen species characterized low-elevation moist sites, whereas deciduous species dominated hills and dry sites. Overall, evergreen species had lower xylem specific conductivity than deciduous species, and tardily deciduous species were different from readily deciduous and evergreen species in five of eight xylem traits. In dry tropical forests, water availability promotes divergence in leaf phenology and xylem traits, ranging from low wood density, evergreen species in moist sites to a combination of low wood density, readily deciduous species plus high wood density, tardily deciduous species in dry sites.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)745-754
    Number of pages10
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Biomechanics
    • Leaf deciduousness
    • Soil water potential
    • Topography
    • Wood density
    • Xylem hydraulic conductivity


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