Allocation to leaf area and sapwood area affects water relations of co-occurring savanna and forest trees

Sybil G. Gotsch, Erika L. Geiger, Augusto C. Franco, Guillermo Goldstein, Frederick C. Meinzer, William A. Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Water availability is a principal factor limiting the distribution of closed-canopy forest in the seasonal tropics, suggesting that forest tree species may not be well adapted to cope with seasonal drought. We studied 11 congeneric species pairs, each containing one forest and one savanna species, to test the hypothesis that forest trees have a lower capacity to maintain seasonal homeostasis in water relations relative to savanna species. To quantify this, we measured sap flow, leaf water potential (ΨL), stomatal conductance (gs), wood density, and Huber value (sapwood area:leaf area) of the 22 study species. We found significant differences in the water relations of these two species types. Leaf area specific hydraulic conductance of the soil/root/leaf pathway (Gt) was greater for savanna species than forest species. The lower Gt of forest trees resulted in significantly lower ΨL and gs in the late dry season relative to savanna trees. The differences in Gt can be explained by differences in biomass allocation of savanna and forest trees. Savanna species had higher Huber values relative to forest species, conferring greater transport capacity on a leaf area basis. Forest trees have a lower capacity to maintain homeostasis in ΨL due to greater allocation to leaf area relative to savanna species. Despite significant differences in water relations, relationships between traits such as wood density and minimum ΨL were indistinguishable for the two species groups, indicating that forest and savanna share a common axis of water-use strategies involving multiple traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-301
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank IBGE for logistical support; Bruna Diniz, Marina Carvalho, Mirea A. B. Pereira, Inaldo Araujo, Kristen Mckinley and Palmyra Romeo for assistance in the field; and Renee Marchin, On Lee Lau, Alice Wines and Wade Wall and three anonymous reviewers for comments on this manuscript. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. DEB-0542912, the A. W. Mellon Foundation, and CNPq, Brazil.


  • Brazil
  • Cerrado
  • Huber value
  • Leaf area index
  • Sap flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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