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Article

Divergent Hydraulic Strategies Explain the Interspecific Associations of Co-Occurring Trees in Forest–Steppe Ecotone

1
College of Urban and Environmental Science and MOE Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
2
College of Forestry, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Inner Mongolia 010000, China
3
Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(9), 942; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11090942
Received: 11 July 2020 / Revised: 20 August 2020 / Accepted: 27 August 2020 / Published: 28 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spatial Heterogeneity of Forest-Steppes)
Research Highlights: Answering how tree hydraulic strategies explain the interspecific associations of co-occurring trees in forest–steppe ecotone is an approach to link plant physiology to forest dynamics, and is helpful to predict forest composition and function changes with climate change. Background and Objectives: The forest–steppe ecotone—the driest edges of forest distribution—is continuously threatened by climate change. To predict the forest dynamics here, it is crucial to document the interspecific associations among existing trees and their potential physiological drivers. Materials and Methods: Forest–steppe ecotone is composed of forest and grassland patches in a mosaic pattern. We executed two years of complete quadrat surveys in a permanent forest plot in the ecotone in northern China, calculated the interspecific association among five main tree species and analyzed their hydraulic strategies, which are presented by combining leaf-specific hydraulic conductivity (Kl) and important thresholds on the stem-vulnerability curves. Results: No intensive competition was suggested among the co-occurring species, which can be explained by their divergent hydraulic strategies. The negative associations among Populus davidiana Dode and Betula platyphylla Suk., and P. davidiana and Betula dahurica Pall. can be explained as the result of their similar hydraulic strategies. Tilia mongolica Maxim. got a strong population development with its effective and safe hydraulic strategy. Generally, hydraulic-strategy differences can explain about 40% variations in interspecific association of species pairs. Oppositely, species sensitivity to early stages of drought is convergent in the forest. Conclusions: The divergent hydraulic strategies can partly explain the interspecific associations among tree species in forest–steppe ecotone and may be an important key for semiarid forests to keep stable. The convergent sensitivity to early stages of drought and the suckering regeneration strategy are also important for trees to survival. Our work revealing the physiological mechanism of forest compositions is a timely supplement to forest–steppe ecotone vegetation prediction. View Full-Text
Keywords: drought tolerance; forest–steppe ecotone; hydraulic strategy; hydraulic trait; interspecific association; interspecific relationships; species co-occurrence; semiarid forests drought tolerance; forest–steppe ecotone; hydraulic strategy; hydraulic trait; interspecific association; interspecific relationships; species co-occurrence; semiarid forests
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MDPI and ACS Style

Dai, J.; Liu, H.; Xu, C.; Qi, Y.; Zhu, X.; Zhou, M.; Liu, B.; Wu, Y. Divergent Hydraulic Strategies Explain the Interspecific Associations of Co-Occurring Trees in Forest–Steppe Ecotone. Forests 2020, 11, 942. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11090942

AMA Style

Dai J, Liu H, Xu C, Qi Y, Zhu X, Zhou M, Liu B, Wu Y. Divergent Hydraulic Strategies Explain the Interspecific Associations of Co-Occurring Trees in Forest–Steppe Ecotone. Forests. 2020; 11(9):942. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11090942

Chicago/Turabian Style

Dai, Jingyu, Hongyan Liu, Chongyang Xu, Yang Qi, Xinrong Zhu, Mei Zhou, Bingbing Liu, and Yiheng Wu. 2020. "Divergent Hydraulic Strategies Explain the Interspecific Associations of Co-Occurring Trees in Forest–Steppe Ecotone" Forests 11, no. 9: 942. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11090942

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