Comparative water relations of mature mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) trees with and without lianas in a subhumid, seasonally dry forest in Bolivia

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Tree Physiology


Many evergreen mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) trees in the seasonally dry Bajo Paragua forest in northeast Bolivia carry substantial liana loads. Evergreen lianas may impede the growth of their host trees in various ways, including competition for water. Hypotheses tested were that water relations status differs (a) between lianas and their host trees, and (b) between trees infested with lianas that were cut 3.5 months previously (treated trees) and control trees with intact lianas. Diurnal measurements of stomatal conductance (g(s)) and leaf water potential (Psi) were made on canopy leaves of treated and control trees and lianas at the start and end of the dry season. Lianas had higher (less negative) Psi values (mean and predawn) and higher diurnal g(s) (expressed as mean or sum of diurnal values) than mahogany trees, indicating that lianas had a higher demand for, and ability to obtain, water than their host trees. Control and treated trees had a similar water relations status, suggesting that removal of lianas had no effect on the water relations of the trees, even at the end of the dry season. We conclude that either both life forms have conservative water relations that were unaffected by water availability in our study, or that the trees and lianas have access to sufficient and different sources of water because of differences in their rooting depths. Our data are consistent with studies of temperate species, indicating that lianas do not interfere with water availability to their host trees.

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