Evolution of hydraulic traits in closely related species pairs from mediterranean and nonmediterranean environments of North America


  • Radika Bhaskar,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA;
    2. (Present address) Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
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  • Alfonso Valiente-Banuet,

    1. Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Apartado Postal 70-275, UNAM, 04510 Mexico, D.F.;
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  • David D. Ackerly

    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA;
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Author for correspondence:Radika BhaskarTel: +1 510 6421054Email: radika@gmail.com


  • • Chaparral shrubs in California experience cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers characteristic of mediterranean-type climates; by contrast, morphologically similar close relatives in central Mexico experience summer rainfall. A comparison of closely related species pairs was conducted to examine whether evolutionary divergences in plant hydraulic conductivity were associated with contrasting seasonality of precipitation.
  • • Six species pairs in Santa Barbara, California and Tehuacan, Mexico were chosen to test for repeated directional divergences across the habitat contrast. Additionally, evolutionary correlations were examined using phylogenetically independent contrasts (PICs) among a suite of hydraulic traits, including stem- and leaf-specific conductivity, resistance to embolism, wood density, inverse Huber value, and minimum seasonal water potential.
  • • Leaf-specific conductivity was generally higher in California, but for most hydraulic traits the species pairs exhibited varied evolutionary trajectories across the climate contrast. A significant correlation was found between divergences in xylem resistance to embolism and minimum seasonal water potential, but no evolutionary trade-off was found between resistance and stem conductivity.
  • • Higher leaf-specific conductivity may be adaptive in California, where soil and atmospheric droughts coincide during summer months. This response is consistent with a hydraulic strategy of high leaf water supply under high evaporative demand to prevent excessive drops in water potential.