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  1. Abstract

    Recent findings suggest that tree mortality and post‐drought recovery of gas exchange can be predicted from loss of function within the water transport system. Understanding the susceptibility of plants to hydraulic damage requires knowledge about the vulnerability of different plant organs to stress‐induced hydraulic dysfunction. This is particularly important in the context of vulnerability segmentation between plant tissues which is believed to protect more energetically ‘costly’ tissues, such as woody stems, by sacrificing ‘cheaper’ leaves early under drought conditions.

    Differences in vulnerability segmentation between co‐occurring plant species could explain divergent behaviours during drought, yet there are few studies considering how this characteristic may vary within a plant community. Here we investigated community‐wide vulnerability segmentation by comparing leaf/shoot and stem vulnerability in all coexistent dominant canopy and understory woody species in a diverse dry sclerophyll woodland community, including multiple angiosperms and one gymnosperm.

    Previously published terminal leaf/shoot vulnerability to loss of water transport capacity was compared with stem xylem vulnerability to embolism measured on the same species at the same site. We calculated hydraulic safety margins for stems to determine variation in the risk of hydraulic failure during drought among species.

    The xylem of all species was found to be highly resistant to hydraulic dysfunction, with only two of the eight species exhibiting significantly different vulnerability to the overall mean. No evidence of vulnerability segmentation between shoots/leaves and stems was found in seven of the eight species.

    Phylogenetically diverse canopy and understory species in this evergreen sclerophyll woodland appear to have evolved similar strategies of drought resistance, including low xylem vulnerability to embolism and general lack of vulnerability segmentation. This convergence in hydraulic safety indicates a lack of hydraulic niche partitioning in this woodland community.

    A freeplain language summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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  2. Abstract

    Patterns of plant biomass partitioning are fundamental to estimates of primary productivity and ecosystem process rates. Allometric relationships between above‐ground plant biomass and non‐destructive measures of plant size, such as cover, volume or stem density are widely used in plant ecology. Such size‐biomass allometry is often assumed to be invariant for a given plant species, plant functional group or ecosystem type.

    Allometric adjustment may be an important component of the short‐ or long‐term response of plants to abiotic conditions. We used 18 years of size‐biomass data describing of 85 plant species to investigate the sensitivity of allometry to precipitation, temperature or drought across two seasons and four ecosystems in central New Mexico, USA.

    Size‐biomass allometry varied with climate in 65%–70% of plant species. Closely related plant species had similar sensitivities of allometry to natural spatiotemporal variation in precipitation, temperature or drought. Annuals were less sensitive than perennials, and forbs were less sensitive than grasses or shrubs. However, the differences associated with plant life history or functional group were not independent of plant evolutionary history, as supported by the application of phylogenetically independent contrasts.

    Our results demonstrate that many plant species adjust patterns in the partitioning of above‐ground biomass under different climates and highlight the importance of long‐term data for understanding functional differences among plant species.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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