Evaluation of centrifugal methods for measuring xylem cavitation in conifers, diffuse- and ring-porous angiosperms

New Phytol. 2008;177(2):558-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2007.02272.x. Epub 2007 Nov 17.


A centrifugal method is used to measure 'vulnerability curves' which show the loss of hydraulic conductivity in xylem by cavitation. Until recently, conductivity was measured between bouts of centrifugation using a gravity-induced head. Now, conductivity can be measured during centrifugation. This 'spin' method is faster than the 'gravity' technique, but correspondence between the two has not been evaluated. The two methods were compared on the same stem segments for two conifer, four diffuse-porous, and four ring-porous species. Only 17 of 60 conductivity measurements differed, with differences in the order of 10%. When different, the spin method gave higher conductivities at the beginning of the curve and lower at the end. Pressure at 50% loss of conductivity, and mean cavitation pressure, were the same in 14 of 20 comparisons. When different, the spin method averaged 0.32 MPa less negative. Ring-porous species showed a precipitous initial drop in conductivity by both techniques. This striking pattern was confirmed by the air-injection method and native embolism measurements. Close correspondence inspires confidence in both methods, each of which has unique advantages. The observation that ring-porous species operate at only a fraction of their potential conductivity at midday demands further study.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Centrifugation / instrumentation
  • Centrifugation / methods*
  • Magnoliopsida / anatomy & histology*
  • Plant Stems / anatomy & histology*
  • Tracheophyta / anatomy & histology*
  • Xylem / anatomy & histology*