Original Papers


, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 369-374

First online:

Field water relations of a wet-tropical forest tree species, Pentaclethra macroloba (Mimosaceae)

  • S. F. OberbauerAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University
  • , B. R. StrainAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University
  • , G. H. RiechersAffiliated withDuke Phytotron, Department of Botany, Duke University

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The water relations of Pentaclethra macroloba (Willd.) Kuntze, a dominant, shade-tolerant, tree species in the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica, were examined within the forest canopy. Pressure-volume curves and diurnal courses of stomatal conductance and leaf water potential were measured in order to assess differences in water relations between understory, mid-canopy and canopy leaves. Leaves in the canopy had the smallest pinnules but the largest stomatal frequencies and stomatal conductances of the three forest levels. Osmotic potentials at full turgidity decreased with height in the forest; in the canopy and midcanopy they were reduced relative to those in the understory just enough to balance the gravitational component of water potential. Consequently, maximum turgor pressures were similar for leaves from all three canopy levels. Bulk tissue elastic modulus increased with height in the canopy. Leaf water potentials were lowest in the canopy and highest in the understory, even when the gravitational component was added to mid-canopy and canopy values. As a result, minimum turgor pressures were also lowest in the canopy compared to those at lesser heights, and approached zero in full sunlight on clear days.

Osmotic potentials at each canopy level were similar for both wet and dry season samples dates suggesting that seasonal osmotic adjustment does not occur. Despite lowered predawn water potentials during the dry season, turgor was maintained in the understory by reduced stomatal conductances.

Key words

Penthaclethra Pressure-volume curves Stomatal conductance Water potential Osmotic potential