Seasonal variation in leaf traits between congeneric savanna and forest trees in Central Brazil: Implications for forest expansion into savanna

Davi Rodrigo Rossatto, William Arthur Hoffmann, Lucas de Carvalho Ramos Silva, Mundayatan Haridasan, Leonel Sternberg, Augusto César Franco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

The ecology of forest and savanna trees species will largely determine the structure and dynamics of the forest-savanna boundaries, but little is known about the constraints to leaf trait variation imposed by selective forces and evolutionary history during the process of savanna invasion by forest species. We compared seasonal patterns in leaf traits related to leaf structure, carbon assimilation, water, and nutrient relations in 10 congeneric species pairs, each containing one savanna species and one forest species. All individuals were growing in dystrophic oxisols in a fire-protected savanna of Central Brazil. We tested the hypothesis that forest species would be more constrained by seasonal drought and nutrient-poor soils than their savanna congeners. We also hypothesized that habitat, rather than phylogeny, would explain more of the interspecific variance in leaf traits of the studied species. We found that throughout the year forest trees had higher specific leaf area (SLA) but lower integrated water use efficiency than savanna trees. Forest and savanna species maintained similar values of predawn and midday leaf water potential along the year. Lower values were measured in the dry season. However, this was achieved by a stronger regulation of stomatal conductance and of CO2 assimilation on an area basis (A area) in forest trees, particularly toward the end of the dry season. Relative to savanna trees, forest trees maintained similar (P, K, Ca, and Mg) or slightly higher (N) leaf nutrient concentrations. For the majority of traits, more variance was explained by phylogeny, than by habitat of origin, with the exception of SLA, leaf N concentration, and A area, which were apparently subjected to different selective pressures in the savanna and forest environments. In conclusion, water shortage during extended droughts would be more limiting for forest trees than nutrient-poor soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1150
Number of pages12
JournalTrees - Structure and Function
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013

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Keywords

  • Carbon isotope discrimination
  • Cerrado
  • Leaf functional traits
  • Leaf nutrients
  • Specific leaf area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science
  • Physiology
  • Ecology

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