Drought resistance increases from the individual to the ecosystem level in highly diverse Neotropical rainforest: A meta-analysis of leaf, tree and ecosystem responses to drought

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The effects of future warming and drying on tropical forest functioning remain largely unresolved. Here, we conduct a meta-analysis of observed drought responses in Neotropical humid forests, focusing on carbon and water exchange. Measures of leaf-, tree- A nd ecosystem-scale performance were retrieved from 145 published studies conducted across 232 sites in Neotropical forests. Differentiating between seasonal and episodic drought, we find that (1) during seasonal drought the increase in atmospheric evaporative demand and a decrease in soil matric potential result in a decline in leaf water potential, stomatal conductance, leaf photosynthesis and stem diameter growth while leaf litterfall and leaf flushing increase. (2) During episodic drought, we observe a further decline in stomatal conductance, photosynthesis, stem growth and, in contrast to seasonal drought, a decline also in daily tree transpiration. Responses of ecosystem-scale processes, productivity and evapotranspiration are of a smaller magnitude and often not significant. Furthermore, we find that the magnitude and direction of a drought-induced change in photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and transpiration reported in a study is correlated to study-averaged wood density. Although wood density is often not functionally related to plant hydraulic properties, we find that it is a good proxy for hydraulic behaviour and can be used to predict leaf- A nd tree-scale responses to drought. We present new insights into the functioning of tropical forest in response to drought and present novel relationships between wood density and tropical-tree responses to drought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2621-2645
Number of pages25
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020


Acknowledgements. The analyses presented in this study would not have been possible without the effort of all the individual researchers that enabled this study by providing freely available datasets in addition to their published work. Especially, we would like to thank Tomas Ferreira Domingues, Celso von Randow and Alessandro Carioca de Araújo for sharing their data with us. We would also like to thank the two anonymous referees for their rigorous reviews, which greatly enhanced the quality of the manuscript. Han Dolman and Thomas Janssen were funded by the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW; grant 024.002.001). Katrin Fleischer is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), grant no. RA 2060/5-1. Sebasti-aan Luyssaert was funded through an Amsterdam Academic Alliance (AAA) fellowship. Financial support. This research has been supported by the Nether-

FundersFunder number
Amsterdam Academic Alliance
Earth System Science Centre
American Association for Anatomy
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftRA 2060/5-1
Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap024.002.001
Netherlands Earth System Science Centre


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