Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

A field experiment to determine the effect of dry-season precipitation on annual ring formation and leaf phenology in a seasonally dry tropical forest

B. Haydena1, D. F. Greenea2 c1 and M. Quesadaa3

a1 Department of Biological Sciences, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd West, Montréal, Québec H3G 1M8, Canada

a2 Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montréal, Québec H3G 1M8, Canada

a3 Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27–3 (Xangari), 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México


Trees growing in a seasonally tropical dry forest, with its characteristic 5–7-mo rainless interval, possess a variety of physiological adaptations to drought, the most common being leaf abscission. At the Estacion Biologia de Chamela in western Mexico, we experimentally examined the relationship between one-time experimental irrigation ranging as 0 (control) to 200 mm, and (1) the degree of bud burst (and, for a single species, flowering), and (2) the formation of a false ring. Additionally, we used long-term records at a nearby meteorological station to determine the probability of a rain event exceeding a particular intensity (mm). For our seven species (particularly the two most common species: Cordia alliodora and Piptadenia constricta), we found that the degree of budburst and leaf extension was a function of irrigation intensity. In no case, however, did we find false rings, or indeed any indication of cambial activity initiated by the irrigation event. Further, there was no effect of intensity on subsequent relative growth rate in the following wet season. While sufficient rainfall (200 mm) to cause full leaf deployment is rare, nonetheless we estimate that a canopy tree in the study area would experience an event of this magnitude at least a few times per century. In any case, it will have no effect on the reliability of annual rings in this biome, nor any effect on diameter growth in (at least) the following year.

(Accepted October 22 2009)


c1 Corresponding author. Email: