Recovery performance in xylem hydraulic conductivity is correlated with cavitation resistance for temperate deciduous tree species

Tree Physiol. 2013 Apr;33(4):335-44. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpt010. Epub 2013 Mar 14.


Woody species hydraulically vulnerable to xylem cavitation may experience daily xylem embolism. How such species cope with the possibility of accumulated embolism is unclear. In this study, we examined seven temperate woody species to assess the hypothesis that low cavitation resistance (high vulnerability to cavitation) is compensated by high recovery performance via vessel refilling. We also evaluated leaf functional and xylem structural traits. The xylem recovery index (XRI), defined as the ratio of xylem hydraulic conductivity in plants rewatered after soil drought to that in plants under moist conditions, varied among species. The xylem water potential causing 50% loss of hydraulic conductivity (Ψ50) varied among the species studied, whereas only a slight difference was detected with respect to midday xylem water potential (Ψmin), indicating smaller hydraulic safety margins (Ψmin - Ψ50) for species more vulnerable to cavitation. Cavitation resistance (|Ψ50|) was negatively correlated with XRI across species, with cavitation-vulnerable species showing a higher performance in xylem recovery. Wood density was positively correlated with cavitation resistance and was negatively correlated with XRI. These novel results reveal that coordination exists between cavitation resistance and xylem recovery performance, in association with wood functional traits such as denser wood for cavitation-resistant xylem and less-dense but water-storable wood for refillable xylem. These findings provide insights into long-term maintenance of water transport in tree species growing under variable environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Betulaceae / anatomy & histology
  • Betulaceae / physiology*
  • Biological Transport
  • Desiccation
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Prunus / anatomy & histology
  • Prunus / physiology*
  • Salix / anatomy & histology
  • Salix / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Trees / anatomy & histology
  • Trees / physiology
  • Xylem / anatomy & histology
  • Xylem / metabolism*