Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor's Name

Michael S. Ross

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Krish Jayachandran

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Steven F. Oberbauer

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Skip J. Van Bloem

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Environmental Sciences

Date of Defense



This study examined how different rainfall regimes affect a set of leaf functional traits related to plant stress and forest structure in tropical dry forest (TDF) species on limestone substrate. One hundred fifty eight individuals of four tree species were sampled in six ecological sites in south Florida and Puerto Rico, ranging in mean annual rainfall from 858 to 1933 mm yr-1. Leaf nitrogen content, specific leaf area (SLA), and N:P ratio of evergreen species, but not deciduous species, responded positively to increasing rainfall. Phosphorus content was unaffected in both groups. Canopy height and basal area reached maxima of 10.3 m and 31.4 m2 ha-1, respectively, at 1168 mm annual rainfall. Leaf traits reflected soil properties only to a small extent. This led us to the conclusion that water is a major limiting factor in TDF and some species that comprise TDF ecosystems are limited by nitrogen in limestone sites with less than ~1012 mm rainfall, but organismal, biological and/or abiotic forces other than rainfall control forest structure in moister sites.





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