, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 625–635 | Cite as

Diverging drought-tolerance strategies explain tree species distribution along a fog-dependent moisture gradient in a temperate rain forest

  • Beatriz Salgado Negret
  • Fernanda Pérez
  • Lars Markesteijn
  • Mylthon Jiménez Castillo
  • Juan J. Armesto
Physiological ecology - Original research


The study of functional traits and physiological mechanisms determining species’ drought tolerance is important for the prediction of their responses to climatic change. Fog-dependent forest patches in semiarid regions are a good study system with which to gain an understanding of species’ responses to increasing aridity and patch fragmentation. Here we measured leaf and hydraulic traits for three dominant species with contrasting distributions within patches in relict, fog-dependent forests in semiarid Chile. In addition, we assessed pressure–volume curve parameters in trees growing at a dry leeward edge and wet patch core. We predicted species would display contrasting suites of traits according to local water availability: from one end favoring water conservation and reducing cavitation risk, and from the opposite end favoring photosynthetic and hydraulic efficiency. Consistent with our hypothesis, we identified a continuum of water use strategies explaining species distribution along a small-scale moisture gradient. Drimys winteri, a tree restricted to the humid core, showed traits allowing efficient water transport and high carbon gain; in contrast, Myrceugenia correifolia, a tree that occurs in the drier patch edges, exhibited traits promoting water conservation and lower gas exchange rates, as well low water potential at turgor loss point. The most widespread species, Aextoxicon punctatum, showed intermediate trait values. Osmotic compensatory mechanism was detected in M. correifolia, but not in A. punctatum. We show that partitioning of the pronounced soil moisture gradients from patch cores to leeward edges among tree species is driven by differential drought tolerance. Such differences indicate that trees have contrasting abilities to cope with future reductions in soil moisture.


Climate change Fog-dependent forest Local water gradient Species distribution Plant hydraulic traits 



We would like to express our gratitude to Leonardo Ramirez, Felipe Albornoz, Rafaella Canessa, Aurora Gaxiola, Paulina Lobos, Juan Monardez, Carmen Ossa, Daniel Salinas, Daniel Stanton and Patricio Valenzuela for their invaluable assistance in the field and useful discussions and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by CONICYT fellowship 24110074 to B. S.-N., and grants Fondecyt 1110929 to F. P., P05-002 from Millennium Scientific Initiative and PFB-23 from CONICYT to the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Chile. This study is a contribution to LINC-Global (Chile-Spain) and to the Research Program of the Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research network at Fray Jorge National Park.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beatriz Salgado Negret
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fernanda Pérez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lars Markesteijn
    • 3
  • Mylthon Jiménez Castillo
    • 4
    • 5
  • Juan J. Armesto
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologíaPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Instituto de Ecología y BiodiversidadSantiagoChile
  3. 3.Departamento de Biogeografía y Cambio Global, Museo Nacional de Ciencias NaturalesConsejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)MadridSpain
  4. 4.Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y EvolutivasUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  5. 5.Jardín Botánico Universidad Austral de Chile, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile

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