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New Phytologist

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DOI: 10.1111/nph.18150


  • Among tropical forests, lianas are predicted to have a growth advantage over trees during seasonal drought, with substantial implications for tree and forest dynamics. We tested the hypotheses that lianas maintain higher water status than trees during seasonal drought and that lianas maximize leaf cover to match high, dry-season light conditions, while trees are more limited by moisture availability during the dry season.
  • We monitored the seasonal dynamics of predawn and midday leaf water potentials and leaf phenology for branches of 16 liana and 16 tree species in the canopies of two lowland tropical forests with contrasting rainfall regimes in Panama.
  • In a wet, weakly seasonal forest, lianas maintained higher water balance than trees and maximized their leaf cover during dry-season conditions, when light availability was high, while trees experienced drought stress. In a drier, strongly seasonal forest, lianas and trees displayed similar dry season reductions in leaf cover following strong decreases in soil water availability.
  • Greater soil moisture availability and a higher capacity to maintain water status allow lianas to maintain the turgor potentials that are critical for plant growth in a wet and weakly seasonal forest but not in a dry and strongly seasonal forest.


Accepted version. New Phytologist, Vol. 235, No. 2 (July 2022): 457-471. DOI. © 2022 Wiley. Used with permission.

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