Theories attempting to explain species coexistence in plant communities have argued in favor of species’ capacities to occupy a multidimensional niche with spatial, temporal and biotic axes. We used the concept of hydrological niche segregation to learn how ecological niches are structured both spatially and temporally and whether small scale humidity gradients between adjacent niches are the main factor explaining water partitioning among tree species in a highly water-limited semiarid forest ecosystem. By combining geophysical methods, isotopic ecology, plant ecophysiology and anatomical measurements, we show how coexisting pine and oak species share, use and temporally switch between diverse spatially distinct niches by employing a set of functionally coupled plant traits in response to changing environmental signals. We identified four geospatial niches that turned into nine, when considering the temporal dynamics of the wetting/drying cycles in the substrate and the particular plant species adaptations to garner, transfer, store and use water. Under water scarcity, pine and oak exhibited water use segregation from different niches, yet under maximum drought when oak trees crossed physiological thresholds, niche overlap occurred. The identification of niches and mechanistic understanding of when and how species use them will help unify theories of plant coexistence and competition.