, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 393–401 | Cite as

Leaf age and the timing of leaf abscission in two tropical dry forest trees

  • Marco V. Gutiérrez-Soto
  • Adriana Pacheco
  • N. Michele Holbrook
Original Paper


We used experimental defoliations to examine the effect of leaf age on the timing of leaf shedding in two tropical dry forest trees. Trees of the deciduous Bombacopsis quinata (bombacaceae, a.k.a. Pachira quinata) and the brevi-deciduous Astronium graveolens (anacardiaceae) were manually defoliated for three times during the rainy season. All trees started to produce a new crown of leaves 2 weeks after defoliation, and continued expanding leaves throughout the rainy season. At the transition to the dry season, the experimental groups consisted of trees with known differences in maximum leaf age. Defoliations resulted in declines in stem growth but did not affect the mineral content or water relations of the leaves subsequently produced. There was no effect of leaf age on the timing of leaf abscission in B. quinata. In A. graveolens, the initiation of leaf shedding followed in rank order, the maximum leaf age of the four treatments, but there was substantial coherence among treatments in the major period of leaf abscission such that trees completed leaf shedding at the same time. In the two species, leaf water potential (ΨL) and stomatal conducantce (gS) declined with the onset of the dry season, reaching minimum values of –0.9 MPa in P. quinata and <–2.0 MPa in A. graveolens. Within each species, leaves of different age exhibited similar ΨL and gS at the onset of drought, and then decreased at a similar rate as the dry season progressed. Overall, our study suggests that the environmental factors were more important than leaf age in controlling the timing of leaf shedding.


Astronium graveolens Bombacopsis quinata Phenology Tropical dry forest Water relations 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco V. Gutiérrez-Soto
    • 1
  • Adriana Pacheco
    • 2
  • N. Michele Holbrook
    • 3
  1. 1.Estación Experimental Fabio BaudritUniversidad de Costa RicaAlajuelaCosta Rica
  2. 2.Department of Environmental EngineeringUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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