Changes in whole-tree water relations during ontogeny of Pinus flexilis and Pinus ponderosa in a high-elevation meadow

Tree Physiol. 2002 Jul;22(10):675-85. doi: 10.1093/treephys/22.10.675.


We measured sap flux in Pinus ponderosa Laws. and Pinus flexilis James trees in a high-elevation meadow in northern Arizona that has been invaded by conifers over the last 150 years. Sap flux and environmental data were collected from July 1 to September 1, 2000, and used to estimate leaf specific transpiration rate (El), canopy conductance (Gc) and whole-plant hydraulic conductance (Kh). Leaf area to sapwood area ratio (LA/SA) increased with increasing tree size in P. flexilis, but decreased with increasing tree size in P. ponderosa. Both Gc and Kh decreased with increasing tree size in P. flexilis, and showed no clear trends with tree size in P. ponderosa. For both species, Gc was lower in the summer dry season than in the summer rainy season, but El did not change between wet and dry summer seasons. Midday water potential (Psi(mid)) did not change across seasons for either species, whereas predawn water potential (Psi(pre)) tracked variation in soil water content across seasons. Pinus flexilis showed greater stomatal response to vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and maintained higher Psi(mid) than P. ponderosa. Both species showed greater sensitivity to VPD at high photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; > 2500 micromol m-2 s-1) than at low PAR (< 2500 micromol m-2 s-1). We conclude that the direction of change in Gc and Kh with increasing tree size differed between co-occurring Pinus species, and was influenced by changes in LA/SA. Whole-tree water use and El were similar between wet and dry summer seasons, possibly because of tight stomatal control over water loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Arizona
  • Environment
  • Pinus / growth & development*
  • Pinus / physiology
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Transpiration / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Soil
  • Water / physiology


  • Soil
  • Water