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The leafing patterns of seasonally dry tropical forests communities: a functional and phylogenetic approach

Grant number: 23/03446-1
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2023
Effective date (End): August 31, 2023
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Applied Ecology
Principal Investigator:Leonor Patricia Cerdeira Morellato
Grantee:Nattália do Prado Neves
Supervisor: Kyle Graham Dexter
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Rio Claro. Rio Claro , SP, Brazil
Research place: University of Edinburgh, Scotland  
Associated to the scholarship:21/11025-0 - The importance of phenology in the spectrum of leaf economy in Caatinga species, BP.IC


The leaf economic spectrum (LES) is a concept that defines the covariation of leaf traits (morphological, physiological, chemical, and phenological), to characterize the strategies of plants carbon acquisition. The LES ranges from fast acquisition to slow acquisition, with plants investing differently in leaf construction and maintenance to optimize carbon acquisition. In Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests (SDTF), the proportion of deciduous plants increases as rainfall decreases and senescence increases to avoid water stress during the dry season, but there is wide variation in for how long species can maintain their leaves. The length of the growing season, or the timing of leaf production, and the leaf fall can be influenced by a combination of abiotic and biotic factors, such as rainfall and herbivory. Nevertheless, there is also evidence that the phenological patterns of plant species are phylogenetically restricted, meaning that the phenology of a plant species may be similar to that of phylogenetically related species, regardless of the specific environmental pressures to which each species is exposed. However, studies considering leaf exchange phenology within a phylogenetic framework are still scarce. Our main objective during the BEPE is to address the second question of the scientific undergraduate research project: Are the leaf phenological patterns found in Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests under phylogenetic restriction? We have been monitoring the leaf exchange strategies of tree species and their main climatic factors across the aridity gradient of the Brazilian Caatinga. The objectives are: (i) To identify and describe the phenological strategies present in four plant communities of the Caatinga distributed in a gradient of rainfall; (ii) To test whether the phenological patterns of leaf flushing, fall, and length of the growing season have a phylogenetic signal and the interaction with leaf traits. (AU)

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