Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Drought Limits Tropical Plant Distributions, Scientists Report

Date:
May 3, 2007
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Drought tolerance is a critical determinant of tropical plant distributions, scientists report. In a novel coupling of experimental measurements and observed plant distributions across a tropical landscape, drought tolerance predicted plant distributions at both local and regional scales. This mechanism to explain a common observation will contribute significantly to models of land use and climate change.

Severely wilted tropical tree seedling.
Credit: Bettina Engelbrecht

Drought tolerance is a critical determinant of tropical plant distributions, researchers working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama report in the journal Nature, May 3. In a novel coupling of experimental measurements and observed plant distributions across a tropical landscape, drought tolerance predicted plant distributions at both local and regional scales. This mechanism to explain a common observation will contribute significantly to models of land use and climate change.

Related Articles


Tropical forest, often called rainforest, conjures up images of verdant, evergreen landscapes. Whereas temperatures may be relatively constant in the tropics, rainfall and water availability often vary dramatically across small distances.

"The Isthmus of Panama is the ideal place to test the idea that the distribution of plant species is influenced by their ability to tolerate a lack of water," said researcher and article author Bettina Engelbrecht of the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany and STRI.

After measuring the drought tolerance of 48 plant species experimentally, scientists looked at the plants' regional distributions across 122 tropical forest plots set up by the Center for Tropical Forest Science. The plots are distributed over a rainfall gradient from the wet Caribbean slope to the drier Pacific slope.

"It was a surprise that even in humid tropical forests, traditionally viewed as water saturated, plants growing at dry sites were more drought-tolerant than plants growing at wet sites," Engelbrecht said.

The team also evaluated the local distributions of both seedlings and older trees on STRI's 50-hectare Forest Dynamics plot on Barro Colorado Island, roughly in the middle of the rainfall gradient. Drought tolerance was a stronger predictor of species distributions for saplings and adult trees than for seedlings, implying that plant community composition adjusts in accordance to environmental constraints.

Researchers ruled out several other potential predictors of plant distribution that could be associated with drought tolerance, such as shade tolerance and nutrient availability.

Identifying drought tolerance as a cause of plant distribution patterns significantly advances the understanding of tropical plant diversity and implies that changes in rainfall patterns--a predicted consequence of climate change in the tropics--may give rise to dramatic changes in tropical plant communities.

"In the tropics, climate change does not just mean temperature change--dramatic shifts in rainfall patterns also are expected to occur," said Ben Turner, STRI staff scientist and co-author. "Our research shows that changes in rainfall patterns will have considerable consequences for tropical forests."

Ref. Bettina M. J. Engelbrecht, Liza S. Comita, Richard Condit, Thomas A. Kursar, Melvin T. Tyree, Benjamin L. Turner, Stephen P. Hubbell. Drought sensitivity shapes species distribution patterns in tropical forests. Nature. May 3, 2007.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Drought Limits Tropical Plant Distributions, Scientists Report." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502143743.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2007, May 3). Drought Limits Tropical Plant Distributions, Scientists Report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502143743.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Drought Limits Tropical Plant Distributions, Scientists Report." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502143743.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Nanoscale Sensor Could Help Wine Producers and Clinical Scientists

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 30, 2015) A nanosensor that mimics the oral effects and sensations of drinking wine has been developed by Danish and Portuguese researchers. Jim Drury saw it in operation. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Retired astronaut and television host, Leland Melvin, snuck his dogs into the NASA studio so they could be in his official photo. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us, the secret is out. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

U.S. Wants to Analyze DNA from 1 Million People

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The U.S. has proposed analyzing genetic information from more than 1 million American volunteers to learn how genetic variants affect health and disease. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Rarest Cat on Planet Caught Attacking Monkeys on Camera

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) An African Golden Cat, the rarest large cat on the planet was recently caught on camera by scientists trying to study monkeys. The cat comes out of nowhere to attack those monkeys. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) has the rest. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins