Lourenco, Jehova, Jr.; Brian J. Enquist; Georg von Arx; Julia Sonsin-Oliveira; Kiyomi Morino; Luciana Dias Thomaz; Camilla Rozindo Dias Milanez
Tropical forests are important to the regulation of climate and the maintenance of biodiversity on Earth. However, these ecosystems are threatened by climate change, as temperatures rise and droughts' frequency and duration increase. Xylem anatomical traits are an essential component in understanding and predicting forest responses to changes in water availability. We calculated the community-weighted means and variances of xylem anatomical traits of hydraulic and structural importance (plot-level trait values weighted by species abundance) to assess their linkages to local adaptation and community assembly in response to varying soil water conditions in an environmentally diverse Brazilian Atlantic Forest habitat. Scaling approaches revealed community-level tradeoffs in xylem traits not observed at the species level. Towards drier sites, xylem structural reinforcement and integration balanced against hydraulic efficiency and capacitance xylem traits, leading to changes in plant community diversity. We show how general community assembly rules are reflected in persistent fiber-parenchyma and xylem hydraulic tradeoffs. Trait variation across a moisture gradient is larger between species than within species and is realized mainly through changes in species composition and abundance, suggesting habitat specialization. Modeling efforts to predict tropical forest diversity and drought sensitivity may benefit from adding hydraulic architecture traits into the analysis.