Project Report

????????For my EAPSI project, I worked with Dr. Kunfang Cao’s research group at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens (XTBG) in Yunnan, China. My research project is part of my PhD thesis research on the relationship between tree species’ water-use characteristics and their ecology in diverse rainforests. Overall, my goal is to determine how species’ diversity in their ability to utilize water and survive drought affects 1) their habitat preference within a diverse landscape, 2) their survival during environmental changes, including seasonal droughts, and 3) their interactions with other species, including how strongly they compete for water. For my project in XTBG, I worked in the long-term ecology research forest plot to measure water-use and drought tolerance characteristics for 30 tree species, focusing on how quickly they can transport water through their stems (called hydraulic conductivity) and how much soil dryness they can tolerate before experiencing leaf wilting (called the turgor loss point). I am now connecting the hydraulic conductivity and turgor loss point to the topographic and tree maps in this forest plot to determine whether or not water-use traits affect where species are distributed across the landscape, relative to light and water availability and physical characteristics like elevation and slope, and how species interact, such as whether they compete strongly for water. I also compared standard methods for measuring leaf drought tolerance with a new, faster method I developed in my research at the University of California, Los Angeles. For the summer project alone, I found that there is considerable variation in the water-use and drought tolerance traits in this forest, suggesting that there is considerable diversity in species water requirements and responses to the dry season. I also found that the new method is an excellent way to measure leaf drought tolerance, requiring only 1-2 hours to complete measurements for one species, compared to 1-2 days using the standard method. In my further analyses, I am finding that drought tolerance traits are extremely important in determining where species occur in a landscape, but less important for species interactions, suggesting that species do not compete strongly for water in this ecosystem. This work will advance our knowledge of how species diversity in rainforests is related to environmental variation and species characteristics.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Bartlett Megan K
Los Angeles
United States
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