Interspecific variation in vessel size, growth and drought tolerance of broad-leaved trees in semi-arid regions of Kenya

Shoko Kondoh, Hisashi Yahata, Tohru Nakashizuka, Michio Kondoh

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33 Citations (Scopus)


In semi-arid regions, trees often wither during the dry season. Withering is sometimes manifest as die-back, whereby whithering results in shoot death, which progresses downward from the uppermost part of the crown. In this study, we measured the relationships between height growth and diameter at breast height, die-back frequency and severity, vessel size and specific hydraulic conductivity of four evergreen (Senna siamea (Lamk) H.S. Irwin & Barneby, Jacaranda mimosifolia D. Don, Azadirachta indica A.H.L. Juss and Acacia gerrardii Benth.) and one deciduous (Melia volkensii Gürke) plantation tree species in Kenya, which has a conspicuous dry season. Die-back occurred readily in some species, but not in others. Senna siamea showed the highest specific hydraulic conductivity and the highest growth rate among the five species and was quite susceptible to die-back. Among species, height growth and specific hydraulic conductivity were positively correlated with vessel size and negatively correlated with die-back frequency, suggesting a trade-off between growth rate and drought tolerance. This implies that an adaptation to rapid growth under humid conditions leads to low drought tolerance. However, the deciduous tree Melia volkensii showed high specific hydraulic conductivity and growth, with no symptoms of die-back, implying that a mechanism associated with the deciduous habit results in drought avoidance by reducing the requirement for water during the dry season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-904
Number of pages6
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Jul


  • Deciduous tree
  • Die-back
  • Drought stress
  • Water transport
  • Xylem architecture


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