Water storage capacitance and xylem tension in isolated branches of temperate and tropical trees

Tree Physiol. 2005 Apr;25(4):457-66. doi: 10.1093/treephys/25.4.457.


Trees of tropical semi-deciduous forests range from "drought-avoiding" stem-succulent species with low-density wood (< 0.5 g cm(-3)), which maintain high stem water potentials (psi(STEM) > -0.7 MPa) throughout the year, to "drought-tolerant" deciduous hardwood species (wood density > 0.75 g cm(-3)), which dehydrate strongly during seasonal drought (psi(STEM) < -6 MPa). In stem-succulent and other drought-avoiding species, xylem vessels are surrounded by extensive parenchyma providing intracellular water storage, whereas in deciduous species stem water storage is mainly extracellular. Thirteen tropical and two temperate tree species, representing different functional types, were studied. The contribution of stem water storage to these species' water use during water stress was determined by time-series analysis of dehydration and rehydration of excised leaf-bearing branches of these trees. During dehydration, stem water potential slowly declined 1-2 MPa in drought-avoiding species, but in deciduous species it rapidly fell 4-5 MPa, suggesting that water storage capacitance was related to xylem anatomy. After immersion of dehydrated, leafless branches in water, the decline in xylem tension and rate of water uptake during rehydration were linearly related, as predicted by application of Ohm's law to water flux. The decline of xylem tension during rehydration was biphasic, with a phase of rapid water uptake into extracellular spaces being followed by a prolonged phase of slow water uptake into living cells. The rate of water uptake during rehydration and the minima of leaf water potential observed in the field during the dry season were highly correlated with water storage capacitance, indicating that wood anatomy is a major determinant of drought adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Plant Stems / physiology*
  • Pyrus / physiology
  • Trees / anatomy & histology
  • Trees / physiology*
  • Tropical Climate
  • Water / physiology*
  • Xylem / anatomy & histology
  • Xylem / physiology*


  • Water