AbstractSubtropical evergreen broadleaf forest (SEBF) is experiencing and expected to suffer more frequent and severe drought events. However, how the hydraulic traits directly link to the mortality and recovery of SEBF trees remains unclear. In this study, we conducted a drought-rewatering experiment on tree seedlings of five dominant species to investigate how the hydraulic traits were related to tree mortality and the resistance and recovery of photosynthesis (A) and transpiration (E) under different drought severities. Species with greater embolism resistance (P50) survived longer than those with the weaker P50. However, there was no general hydraulic threshold associated with tree mortality, with the lethal hydraulic failure varying from 64% to 93% loss of conductance. The photosynthesis and transpiration of tree species with greater P50 were more resistant to and recovered faster from drought than those with lower P50. Other plant traits could not explain the interspecific variation in tree mortality and drought resistance and recovery. These results highlight the unique importance of embolism resistance in driving carbon and water process under persistent drought across different trees in SEBF. The absence of multiple efficient drought strategies in SEBF seedlings implies the difficulty of natural seedling regeneration under future droughts, which often occurs after destructive disturbances (e.g., extreme drought events and typhoon), suggesting that this biome may be highly vulnerable to co-occurring climate extremes.
Published: February 3, 2023