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Water relations of baobab trees (Adansonia spp. L.) during the rainy season: does stem water buffer daily water deficits?

Authors

  • SAHARAH MOON CHAPOTIN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA and
      Saharah Moon Chapotin. E-mail: chapotin@post.harvard.edu
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  • JUVET H. RAZANAMEHARIZAKA,

    1. Laboratoire de Physiologie Végétale, URP70, Forêts et Biodiversité, B.P. 906, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo (101), Madagascar
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  • N. MICHELE HOLBROOK

    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA and
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Saharah Moon Chapotin. E-mail: chapotin@post.harvard.edu

ABSTRACT

Baobab trees are often cited in the literature as water-storing trees, yet few studies have examined this assumption. We assessed the role of stored water in buffering daily water deficits in two species of baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa Jum. and H. Perrier and Adansonia za Baill.) in a tropical dry forest in Madagascar. We found no lag in the daily onset of sap flow between the base and the crown of the tree. Some night-time sap flow occurred, but this was more consistent with a pattern of seasonal stem water replenishment than with diurnal usage. Intrinsic capacitance of both leaf and stem tissue (0.07–0.08 and 1.1–1.43 MPa−1, respectively) was high, yet the amount of water that could be withdrawn before turgor loss was small because midday leaf and stem water potentials (WPs) were near the turgor-loss points. Stomatal conductance was high in the daytime but then declined rapidly, suggesting an embolism-avoidance strategy. Although the xylem of distal branches was relatively vulnerable to cavitation (P50: 1.1–1.7 MPa), tight stomatal control and minimum WPs near −1.0 MPa maintained native embolism levels at 30–65%. Stem morphology and anatomy restrict water movement between storage tissues and the conductive pathway, making stored-water usage more appropriate to longer-term water deficits than as a buffer against daily water deficits.

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