University Of Tasmania

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Stability of tropical forest tree carbon-water relations in a rainfall exclusion treatment through shifts in effective water uptake depth

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 04:19 authored by Pivovaroff, AL, McDowell, NG, Barrozo Rodrigues, T, Timothy BrodribbTimothy Brodribb, Cernusak, LA, Choat, B, Grossiord, C, Ishida, Y, Jardine, KJ, Laurance, S, Leff, R, Li, W, Liddell, M, Mackay, DS, Pacheco, H, Peters, J, de J Sampaio Filho, I, Souza, DC, Wang, W, Zhang, P, Chambers, J
Increasing severity and frequency of drought is predicted for large portions of the terrestrial biosphere, with major impacts already documented in wet tropical forests. Using a 4-year rainfall exclusion experiment in the Daintree Rainforest in northeast Australia, we examined canopy tree responses to reduced precipitation and soil water availability by quantifying seasonal changes in plant hydraulic and carbon traits for 11 tree species between control and drought treatments. Even with reduced soil volumetric water content in the upper 1 m of soil in the drought treatment, we found no significant difference between treatments for predawn and midday leaf water potential, photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, foliar stable carbon isotope composition, leaf mass per area, turgor loss point, xylem vessel anatomy, or leaf and stem nonstructural carbohydrates. While empirical measurements of aboveground traits revealed homeostatic maintenance of plant water status and traits in response to reduced soil moisture, modeled belowground dynamics revealed that trees in the drought treatment shifted the depth from which water was acquired to deeper soil layers. These findings reveal that belowground acclimation of tree water uptake depth may buffer tropical rainforests from more severe droughts that may arise in future with climate change.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Global Change Biology










School of Natural Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts); Native forests