Whole tree xylem sap flow responses to multiple environmental variables in a wet tropical forest
In order to quantify and characterize the variance in rain-forest tree physiology, whole tree sap flow responses to local environmental conditions were investigated in 10 species of trees with diverse traits at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. A simple model was developed to predict tree sap flow responses to a synthetic environmental variable generated by a principle components analysis. The best fit was obtained with a sigmoid function which explained between 74 and 93% of the variation in sap flux of individual trees. Sap flow reached an asymptote where higher light and evaporative demand did not cause sap flux to increase further. Soil moisture had little influence on sap flux. The morphological characteristics of the trees significantly affectcd sap flow; taller trees responded to changes in environmental variables sooner than shorter trees and high liana cover buffered tree sap flow responses to weather. The effect of species-specific differences on the model was small; the mean effectiveness of the model was reduced by 6% when parameters were estimated from a single pool of measurements taken from all individuals. The results indicate that sap flow response could be effectively estimated using a simple general model and composite environmrntal index for these 10 diverse tree species.