Journal Article

Testing the equi-resistance principle of the xylem transport system in a small ash tree: empirical support from anatomical analyses

Daniele Bettiati, Giai Petit and Tommaso Anfodillo

Edited by Nathan Phillips

in Tree Physiology

Volume 32, issue 2, pages 171-177
Published in print February 2012 | ISSN: 0829-318X
Published online January 2012 | e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpr137
Testing the equi-resistance principle of the xylem transport system in a small ash tree: empirical support from anatomical analyses

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In plants, water flows from roots to leaves through a complex network of xylem conduits. The xylem architecture is characterized by the conduit enlargement towards the stem base and the multiplication of conduits near the apices of lateral branches. The xylem architecture of a small ash tree was analysed by measuring the vessel hydraulic diameter (Dh) and number (N) at different heights along the stem and branches. Along the stem, Dh and N increased from the apex to the point of crown insertion. Below, Dh and N decreased and remained constant, respectively. In branches, the Dh and N of apices increased with distance from the ground (PL) (P < 0.001 and P < 0.0001, respectively), indicating that apical resistance (RAPEX) becomes lower in the most peripheral branches (P < 0.0001). At the level of branch nodes along the stem, the total conductive area (AC) of the stem and branches just above the node was 11% higher than that of the stem just below the node (P = 0.024), whereas the conductivity (Kh) remained invariant above and below (P = 0.76). The difference in AC (ΔAC) between the branches and stem above each node increased with the distance of the node position from the stem apex (L). The xylem architecture of the analysed tree was characterized by anatomical modifications likely aimed at equilibrating the different path length effects on the hydraulic resistance of the different branches. Conduit tapering and multiplication seem to play a crucial role for the achievement of equal hydraulic resistance of all the leaves in the crown.

Keywords: conduit multiplication; conduit tapering; equi-resistance; furcation; hydraulic architecture; xylem anatomy

Journal Article.  4345 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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