Anatomical traits related to leaf and branch hydraulic functioning on Amazonian savanna plants

AoB Plants. 2023 Apr 24;15(3):plad018. doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plad018. eCollection 2023 Jun.


Amazonian savannas are isolated patches of open habitats found within the extensive matrix of Amazonian tropical forests. There remains limited evidence on how Amazonian plants from savannas differ in the traits related to drought resistance and water loss control. Previous studies have reported several xeromorphic characteristics of Amazonian savanna plants at the leaf and branch levels that are linked to soil, solar radiation, rainfall and seasonality. How anatomical features relate to plant hydraulic functioning in this ecosystem is less known and instrumental if we want to accurately model transitions in trait states between alternative vegetation in Amazonia. In this context, we combined studies of anatomical and hydraulic traits to understand the structure-function relationships of leaf and wood xylem in plants of Amazonian savannas. We measured 22 leaf, wood and hydraulic traits, including embolism resistance (as P50), Hydraulic Safety Margin (HSM) and isotope-based water use efficiency (WUE), for the seven woody species that account for 75% of the biomass of a typical Amazonian savanna on rocky outcrops in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Few anatomical traits are related to hydraulic traits. Our findings showed wide variation exists among the seven species studied here in resistance to embolism, water use efficiency and structural anatomy, suggesting no unique dominant functional plant strategy to occupy an Amazonian savanna. We found wide variation in resistance to embolism (-1.6 ± 0.1 MPa and -5.0 ± 0.5 MPa) with species that are less efficient in water use (e.g. Kielmeyera rubriflora, Macairea radula, Simarouba versicolor, Parkia cachimboensis and Maprounea guianensis) showing higher stomatal conductance potential, supporting xylem functioning with leaf succulence and/or safer wood anatomical structures and that species that are more efficient in water use (e.g. Norantea guianensis and Alchornea discolor) can exhibit riskier hydraulic strategies. Our results provide a deeper understanding of how branch and leaf structural traits combine to allow for different hydraulic strategies among coexisting plants. In Amazonian savannas, this may mean investing in buffering water loss (e.g. succulence) at leaf level or safer structures (e.g. thicker pit membranes) and architectures (e.g. vessel grouping) in their branch xylem.

PMID:37214224 | PMC:PMC10198777 | DOI:10.1093/aobpla/plad018


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