A comparison of tree water use in two contiguous vegetation communities of the seasonally dry tropics of northern Australia: the importance of site water budget to tree hydraulics

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Journal Article
Australian Journal Of Botany, 2007, 55 (7), pp. 700 - 708
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Tree water use in two contiguous communities (eucalypt open-forest and Melaleuca paperbark forest) was measured in tropical Australia, over a 2-year period. The aims of the study were to (1) quantify daily and seasonal patterns of water use in each community, (2) compare patterns of water use among the communities and (3) compare relationships among tree size, sapwood area and water use within the two contrasting vegetation communities. Access to deep soil water stores and the effect of run-on from the eucalypt forest resulted in a relatively high pre-dawn water potential throughout the year, particularly for Melaleuca forest. There were no differences in daily rates of water use, expressed on a sapwood area (Q s) basis, between the two eucalypt species examined (Eucalyptus miniata Cunn. Ex Schauer and E. tetrodonta F.Muell) at any time in the eucalypt forest. For both the eucalypt and Melaleuca forests, there was less seasonal variation in water use expressed on a leaf area (Q l) basis than on a Q s basis, and neither year nor season were significant factors in Q l. In the mono-specific Melaleuca forest, Q s was not significantly different between years or seasons. Water use on a Q l basis was similarly not significantly different between years or seasons in the Melaleuca forest. Leaf area index (LAI) of the eucalypt forest was about half of that of the Melaleuca forest throughout the year but sapwood area per hectare was 33% larger in the eucalypt than the Melaleuca forest, despite the basal area of the Melaeuca forest being almost double that of the eucalypt forest.
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