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Vessel dimorphism and wood traits in lianas and trees among three contrasting environments

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Zhang, KY; Yang, D; Zhang, YB; Liu, Q; Wang, YSD; Ke, Y; Xiao, Y; Wang, Q; Dossa, GGO; Schnitzer, SA; Zhang, JL

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2023

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BOTANY

110

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Premise: Determining how xylem vessel diameters vary among plants and across environments gives insights into different water-use strategies among species and ultimately their distributions. Here, we tested the vessel dimorphism hypothesis that the simultaneous occurrence of many narrow and a few wide vessels gives lianas an advantage over trees in seasonally dry environments. Methods: We measured the diameters of 13,958 vessels from 15 liana species and 10,430 vessels from 16 tree species in a tropical seasonal rainforest, savanna, and subtropical evergreen broadleaved forest. We compared differences in mean and hydraulically weighted vessel diameter (MVD and D-h), vessel density (VD), theoretical hydraulic conductivity (Kt), vessel area fraction (VAF), and wood density (WD) between lianas and trees and among three sites. Results: Nine liana species and four tree species had dimorphic vessels. From the tropical seasonal rainforest to the savanna, liana MVD, Dh and Kt decreased, and VD and WD increased, while only tree WD increased. From the tropical seasonal rainforest to the subtropical forest, six wood traits remained unchanged for lianas, while tree MVD, D-h and K-t decreased and VD increased. Trait space for lianas and trees were more similar in the savanna and more divergent in the subtropical forest compared to the tropical seasonal rainforest. Conclusions: These results suggest that lianas tend to possess greater vessel dimorphism, which may explain how lianas grow well during seasonal drought, influencing their unique distribution across tropical rainfall gradients.

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