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Wood Nutrient-Water-Density Linkages Are Influenced by Both Species and Environment

  • Lira-Martins, Demetrius1, 2
  • Quesada, Carlos Alberto3
  • Strekopytov, Stanislav4, 5
  • Humphreys-Williams, Emma4
  • Herault, Bruno6, 7, 8
  • Lloyd, Jon1, 9, 10
  • 1 Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, London , (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Department of Plant Biology, Institute of Biology, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas , (Brazil)
  • 3 Coordination of Environmental Dynamics, National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA), Manaus , (Brazil)
  • 4 Imaging and Analysis Centre, Natural History Museum, London , (United Kingdom)
  • 5 National Measurement Laboratory, LGC, Teddington , (United Kingdom)
  • 6 UR Forests and Societies, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique Pour le Développement (Cirad), Montpellier , (France)
  • 7 Université de Montpellier, Montpellier , (France)
  • 8 Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Yamoussoukro
  • 9 Centre for Tropical, Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Smithfield, QLD , (Australia)
  • 10 Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciencias e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto , (Brazil)
Published Article
Frontiers in Plant Science
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Apr 04, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.778403
  • Plant Science
  • Original Research


Tropical trees store a large amount of nutrients in their woody tissues, thus triggering the question of what the functional association of these elements with other wood traits is. Given the osmotic activity of mineral elements such as potassium, sodium, and calcium, these elements should be strong candidates in mediating the water storing capacity in tropical trees. We investigated the role of wood nutrients in facilitating wood water storage in trees by using branch samples from 48 tropical tree species in South America and examined their associations with wood density (ρ). Wood density varied from 316 kg/m3 in Peru plots, where the soil nutrient status is relatively higher, to 908 kg/m3 in Brazil plots, where the nutrient availability is lower. Phosphorus content in wood varied significantly between plots with lowest values found in French Guiana (1.2 mol/m3) and plots with highest values found in Peru (43.6 mol/m3). Conversely, potassium in woody tissues showed a significant cross-species variation with Minquartia guianensis in Brazil showing the lowest values (8.8 mol/m3) and with Neea divaricata in Peru having the highest values (114 mol/m3). We found that lower wood density trees store more water in their woody tissues with cations, especially potassium, having a positive association with water storage. Specific relationships between wood cation concentrations and stem water storage potential nevertheless depend on both species’ identity and growing location. Tropical trees with increased water storage capacity show lower wood density and have an increased reliance on cations to regulate this reservoir. Our study highlights that cations play a more important role in tropical tree water relations than has previously been thought, with potassium being particularly important.

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