Climate and functional traits jointly mediate tree water-use strategies

Victor Flo*, Jordi Martínez-Vilalta, Maurizio Mencuccini, Victor Granda, William R.L. Anderegg, Rafael Poyatos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Tree water use is central to plant function and ecosystem fluxes. However, it is still unknown how organ-level water-relations traits are coordinated to determine whole-tree water-use strategies in response to drought, and whether this coordination depends on climate. Here we used a global sap flow database (SAPFLUXNET) to study the response of water use, in terms of whole-tree canopy conductance (G), to vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and to soil water content (SWC) for 142 tree species. We investigated the individual and coordinated effect of six water-relations traits (vulnerability to embolism, Huber value, hydraulic conductivity, turgor-loss point, rooting depth and leaf size) on water-use parameters, also accounting for the effect of tree height and climate (mean annual precipitation, MAP). Reference G and its sensitivity to VPD were tightly coordinated with water-relations traits rather than with MAP. Species with efficient xylem transport had higher canopy conductance but also higher sensitivity to VPD. Moreover, we found that angiosperms had higher reference G and higher sensitivity to VPD than did gymnosperms. Our results highlight the need to consider trait integration and reveal the complications and challenges of defining a single, whole-plant resource use spectrum ranging from ‘acquisitive’ to ‘conservative’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-630
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • climate
  • meta-analysis
  • sap flow
  • trait coordination
  • tree height
  • water conductance
  • water-relations traits
  • water-use strategy


Dive into the research topics of 'Climate and functional traits jointly mediate tree water-use strategies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this