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Title: Stem and leaf xylem of angiosperm trees experiences minimal embolism in temperate forests during two consecutive summers with moderate drought

Drought events may increase the likelihood that the plant water transport system becomes interrupted by embolism. Yet our knowledge about the temporal frequency of xylem embolism in the field is frequently lacking, as it requires detailed, long‐term measurements.

We measured xylem embolism resistance and midday xylem water potentials during the consecutive summers of 2019 and 2020 to estimate maximum levels of embolism in leaf and stem xylem of ten temperate angiosperm tree species. We also studied vessel and pit membrane characteristics based on light and electron microscopy to corroborate potential differences in embolism resistance between leaves and stems.

Apart fromA.pseudoplatanusandQ.petraea, eight species experienced minimum xylem water potentials that were close to or below those required to initiate embolism. Water potentials corresponding to ca. 12% loss of hydraulic conductivity (PLC) could occur in six species, while considerable levels of embolism around 50% PLC were limited toB.pendulaandC.avellana. There was a general agreement in embolism resistance between stems and leaves, with leaves being equally or more resistant than stems. Also, xylem embolism resistance was significantly correlated to intervessel pit membrane thickness (TPM) for stems, but not to vessel diameter and total intervessel pit membrane surface area of a vessel.

Our data indicate that low amounts of embolism occur in most species during moderate summer drought, and that considerable levels of embolism are uncommon. Moreover, our experimental andTPMdata show that leaf xylem is generally no more vulnerable than stem xylem.

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Plant Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1208 to 1223
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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