Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (3): 227-237.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2018.0305

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Hydraulic safety margin of 17 co-occurring woody plants in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape, China

TAN Feng-Sen1,2,SONG Hui-Qing1,2,LI Zhong-Guo1,2,3,ZHANG Qi-Wei1,2,ZHU Shi-Dan1,2,*()   

  1. 1 Guangxi Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Conservation, College of Forestry, Guangxi University, Nanning 530004, China
    2 State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Subtropical Agro-bioresources, Guangxi University, Nanning 530004, China
    3 Experimental Center of Tropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Pingxiang, Guangxi 532600, China
  • Received:2018-11-30 Revised:2019-02-22 Online:2019-04-23 Published:2019-03-20
  • Contact: ZHU Shi-Dan ORCID:0000-0002-9228-368X
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31470468)


Aims Tropical seasonal rain forest of the karst landscape in southwestern Guangxi is one of the global biodiversity hotspots, with its habitats characterized with large exposed boulders, shallow and patchy soils, and cascading streams. As a result, plants in the karst landscapes experience frequent drought due to limited soil water holding capacity. In this study, we investigate the hydraulic characteristics of woody species in this drought-prone environment for sound conservation of plants in the fragile forests as well as through restoration actions.

Methods We measured xylem vulnerability curves, minimum xylem water potential (Ψstem-min), sapwood density and leaf turgor loss point of 17 typical woody plant species that co-occur in a tropical seasonal rain forest. We compared cavitation-resistance and hydraulic safety margins among the species and/or by plant groups. In addition, we analyzed the relationships between hydraulic safety margins and other hydraulic characteristics.

Important findings We found large inter-species variations in xylem water potential at 50% of hydraulic conductivity (P50 ranged from -0.51 to -2.51 MPa), with evergreen species showing more negative P50 than deciduous species. The hydraulic safety margin (HSM), calculated as the difference between Ψstem-min and P50 stem-min - P50), has been widely used to quantify the degree of hydraulic risk under droughts. The average HSM of the 17 woody species was 0.36 MPa, indicating a high hydraulic risk in this forest during the dry season. However, there existed significant differences in HSM among species. Interestingly, there was no significant correlation between HSM and other key hydraulic characteristics, likely because of different hydraulic strategies under drought stress. This study provides evidences of different hydraulic risks of the common species in response to droughts and highlights the importance of long-term monitoring of water potential for conservation of the plants, especially in extreme drought events.

Key words: cavitation, hydraulic traits, hydraulic safety margin, minimum water potential, turgor loss point

Table 1

Seventeen woody species in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape"


Life form
Leaf habit
Maximum vessel length (cm)
红背山麻杆 Alchornea trewioides At 大戟科 Euphorbiaceae 灌木 Shrub 落叶 Deciduous 山脊 Ridge 62
龙州细子龙 Amesiodendron integrifoliolatum Ai 无患子科 Sapindaceae 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 山谷 Valley 46
糙叶树 Aphananthe aspera Aa 榆科 Ulmaceae 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 山谷 Valley 115
黄梨木 Boniodendron minus Bm 无患子科 Sapindaceae 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 76
杭子梢 Campylotropis macrocarpa Cm 蝶形花科 Fabaceae 灌木 Shrub 落叶 Deciduous 山脊 Ridge 66
山柑藤 Cansjera rheedei Cr 山柚子科 Opiliaceae 藤本 Liana 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 273
肥牛树 Cephalomappa sinensis Cs 大戟科 Euphorbiaceae 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 山谷 Valley 35
灰毛浆果楝 Cipadessa cinerascens Cc 楝科 Meliaceae 灌木 Shrub 落叶 Deciduous 山谷 Valley 67
茶条木 Delavaya toxocarpa Dt 无患子科 Sapindaceae 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 100
假鹰爪 Desmos chinensis Dc 番荔枝科 Annonaceae 藤本 Liana 常绿 Evergreen 山谷 Valley 43
蚬木 Excentrodendron hsienmu Eh 椴树科 Tiliaceae 乔木 Tree 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 70
石岩枫 Mallotus repandus Mr 大戟科 Euphorbiaceae 藤本 Liana 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 170
黄连木 Pistacia chinensis Pc 漆树科 Anacardiaceae 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 山脊 Ridge 52
秀丽海桐 Pittosporum pulchrum Pp 海桐花科 Pittosporaceae 灌木 Shrub 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 68
圆叶乌桕 Sapium rotundifolium Sar 大戟科 Euphorbiaceae 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 山脊 Ridge 45
鸡仔木 Sinoadina racemosa Sir 茜草科 Rubiaceae 乔木 Tree 落叶 Deciduous 山脊 Ridge 74
米念芭 Tirpitzia ovoidea To 亚麻科 Linaceae 灌木 Shrub 常绿 Evergreen 山脊 Ridge 56

Fig. 1

Xylem vulnerability curves of 17 woody species in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape. Species codes are provided in Table 1. P50, the xylem water potential at 50% loss of hydraulic conductivity. R, ridge; V, valley; D, deciduous; E, evergreen; T, tree; S, shrub; L, liana."

Fig. 2

Comparison of cavitation vulnerability (P50) among plant groups in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape. The error bars are standard errors. Different lowercase letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05). * indicates significant difference (p < 0.05); ns indicates no significant difference (p > 0.05)."

Fig. 3

Minimum stem and leaf water potential of the 17 woody species in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape. The error bars are standard errors. * indicate significant difference between minimum stem water potential (Ψstem-min) and minimum leaf water potential (Ψleaf-min)(p < 0.05). Species codes are provided in Table 1."

Fig. 4

Comparison of hydraulic safety margins (HSM) among species or plant groups in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape. The error bars are standard errors. Different lowercase letters indicate significant difference (p < 0.05). ns indicates no significant difference (p > 0.05). Species codes are provided in Table 1."

Fig. 5

Relationships between hydraulic safety margin (HSM) and turgor loss point (Ψtlp)(A), sapwood density (WD)(B) for the 17 woody species in a seasonal rain forest in Guangxi’s Southwest karst landscape."

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