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Beyond leaf habit: generalities in plant function across 97 tropical dry forest tree species Vargas G., German; Brodribb, Tim J.; Dupuy, Juan M.; González‐M., Roy; Hulshof, Catherine M.; Medvigy, David; Allerton, Tristan A. P.; Pizano, Camila; Salgado‐Negret, Beatriz; Schwartz, Naomi B.; Van Bloem, Skip J.; Waring, Bonnie G.; Powers, Jennifer S.

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Abstract

 

Leaf habit has been hypothesized to define a linkage between the slow-fast plant economic spectrum and the drought resistance-avoidance trade-off in tropical forests (‘slow-safe versus fast-risky’). However, variation in hydraulic traits as a function of leaf habit has rarely been explored for a large number of species.

We sampled leaf and branch functional traits of 97 tropical dry forest tree species from four sites to investigate whether patterns of trait variation varied consistently in relation to leaf habit along the ‘slow-safe versus fast-risky’ tradeoff.

Leaf habit explained from 0 to 43.69 % of individual trait variation. We found that evergreen and semi-deciduous species differed in their location along the multivariate trait ordination when compared to deciduous species. While deciduous species showed consistent trait values, evergreen species trait values varied as a function of the site. Last, trait values varied in relation to the proportion of deciduous species in the plant community.

We found that leaf habit describes the strategies that define drought avoidance and plant economics in tropical trees. However, leaf habit alone does not explain patterns of trait variation, which suggests that quantifying site-specific or species-specific uncertainty in trait variation as the way forward.

 

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