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Understanding wood density through its associated components: insights from successional tropical dry forest trees
Wood density (amount of xylem tissue per volume) is relevant in defining the potential uses of wood, as well as a plant’s ecological performance. Wood water content/dry mass ratio, and lumen cell contents, influence wood density, and these in turn can affect tissue mechanical properties and plant survival and growth rates. Allocation of water and carbon resources may indicate a species ability to withstand drought. Water stress is a stringent environmental filter for tropical deciduous forest species occurring in sites disturbed by agricultural activities. Here, we analyze successional species wood density in a tropical deciduous forest, assessed how does wood water content/dry mass ratio influence their wood density, and use plant anatomy to understand wood density associated physical properties. Thirteen species occurring in early and late successional communities were studied. We described organic and inorganic deposits through wood cross sections. Wood density ranged from 0.10 g/cm3 (Jacaratia mexicana-late community) to 0.92 g/cm3 (Lysiloma divaricatum-early community). Wood water content correlated negatively with wood density. Species with high wood water contents are restricted to late successional communities. Successional species showed low intra-specific plasticity, despite large differences in the environmental conditions in communities where they grow. Columnar cacti (Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum and Pilosocereus colinsii) can potentially capture the same amount of carbon as two tree species (Bursera simaruba and Cnidoscolus megacanthus), as wood density did not differ between them. Starch and tannins were abundant cell contents in most successional species, and some presented gums and crystals; these contents could potentially influence wood density through dry mass content values. Anatomical cross-sections allowed us to infer whether during the tissue drying process certain volatile cellular contents are lost in addition to free and bounded water. We recommend adapting drying treatments for each species, depending on their water/dry matter content ratio and volatile contents.