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Adjustments and coordination of hydraulic, leaf and stem traits along a water availability gradient

Rosas, Teresa, Mencuccini, Maurizio, Barba, Josep, Cochard, Hervé, Saura‐Mas, Sandra, Martínez‐Vilalta, Jordi
Thenew phytologist 2019 v.223 no.2 pp. 632-646
Fagaceae, Pinaceae, carbon, embolism, environmental factors, intraspecific variation, leaf area, leaf mass, leaves, nitrogen, resource allocation, sapwood, space and time, stable isotopes, stemwood, trees, turgor, wood density, Spain
Trait variability in space and time allows plants to adjust to changing environmental conditions. However, we know little about how this variability is distributed and coordinated at different organizational levels. For six dominant tree species in northeastern Spain (three Fagaceae and three Pinaceae) we quantified the inter‐ and intraspecific variability of a set of traits along a water availability gradient. We measured leaf mass per area (LMA), leaf nitrogen (N) concentration, carbon isotope composition in leaves (δ¹³C), stem wood density, the Huber value (Hv, the ratio of cross‐sectional sapwood area to leaf area), sapwood‐specific and leaf‐specific stem hydraulic conductivity, vulnerability to xylem embolism (P₅₀) and the turgor loss point (Pₜₗₚ). Differences between families explained the largest amount of variability for most traits, although intraspecific variability was also relevant. Species occupying wetter sites showed higher N, P₅₀ and Pₜₗₚ, and lower LMA, δ¹³C and Hv. However, when trait relationships with water availability were assessed within species they held only for Hv and Pₜₗₚ. Overall, our results indicate that intraspecific adjustments along the water availability gradient relied primarily on changes in resource allocation between sapwood and leaf area and in leaf water relations.