Journal Article

Drought responses of flood-tolerant trees in Amazonian floodplains

Pia Parolin, Christine Lucas, Maria Teresa F. Piedade and Florian Wittmann

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 1, pages 129-139
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp258
Drought responses of flood-tolerant trees in Amazonian floodplains

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background

Flood-tolerant tree species of the Amazonian floodplain forests are subjected to an annual dry period of variable severity imposed when low river-water levels coincide with minimal precipitation. Although the responses of these species to flooding have been examined extensively, their responses to drought, in terms of phenology, growth and physiology, have been neglected hitherto, although some information is found in publications that focus on flooding.

Scope

The present review examines the dry phase of the annual flooding cycle. It consolidates existing knowledge regarding responses to drought among adult trees and seedlings of many Amazonian floodplain species.

Main Findings

Flood-tolerant species display variable physiological responses to dry periods and drought that indicate desiccation avoidance, such as reduced photosynthetic activity and reduced root respiration. However, tolerance and avoidance strategies for drought vary markedly among species. Drought can substantially decrease growth, biomass and photosynthetic activity among seedlings in field and laboratory studies. When compared with the responses to flooding, drought can impose higher seedling mortality and slower growth rates, especially among evergreen species. Results indicate that tolerance and avoidance strategies for drought vary markedly between species. Both seedling recruitment and photosynthetic activity are affected by drought,

Conclusions

For many species, the effects of drought can be as important as flooding for survival and growth, particularly at the seedling phase of establishment, ultimately influencing species composition. In the context of climate change and predicted decreases in precipitation in the Amazon Basin, the effects of drought on plant physiology and species distribution in tropical floodplain forest ecosystems should not be overlooked.

Keywords: Drought responses; Amazonia; floodplain forests; tree ecology; várzea

Journal Article.  6936 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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