Key message: Positive radial trends in WSG were common among light-demanding species, and were mainly explained by radial shift in fiber and parenchyma traits. Abstract: Trees can modify their wood structure in response to changes in mechanical, hydraulic and storage demands during their life-cycles. Thus, examining radial variations in wood traits is important to expand our knowledge of tree functioning and species ecological strategies. Yet, several aspects of radial changes in wood functional traits are still poorly understood, especially in angiosperm trees from tropical humid forests. Here, we examined radial shifts in wood traits in trunks of tropical forest species and explored their potential ecological implications. We first examined radial variations in wood specific gravity (WSG). Then, we asked what anatomical traits drove radial variations in WSG, and whether WSG, vessel fraction and specific hydraulic conductivity vary independently from each other along the radius gradients. We measured WSG and eight wood anatomical traits, at different radial positions along the trunks, in 19 tree species with contrasting shade-tolerance from a lowland tropical forest in eastern Amazonia. Most species had significant radials shifts in WSG. Positive radial gradients in WSG (i.e., increments from pith to bark) were common among shade-intolerant species and were explained by different combinations of fiber and parenchyma traits, while negative radial shifts in WSG (e.g., decreases towards the bark) were present in shade-tolerants, but were generally weakly related to anatomical traits. We also found that, in general, WSG was unrelated to vessel fraction and specific hydraulic conductivity in any radial position. This study illustrates the contrasting radial variations in wood functional traits that occur in tree species from a humid lowland tropical forest. In particular, our results provide valuable insights into the anatomical traits driving WSG variations during tree development. These insights are important to expand our knowledge on tree ecological strategies by providing evidence on how wood allocation varies as trees grow, which in turn can be useful in studying trait-demography associations, and in estimating tree above-ground biomass.
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