Sugar transport together with environmental conditions controls time lags between xylem and stem diameter changes


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In the present study the seasonal patterns of time lags between diurnal xylem and whole stem diameter variations at the top and at the base of two Scots pine trees (Pinus sylvestris L.) were compared. The diameter variations were measured during the summers of 2001 and 2002. Time lags were determined using the cross-correlation method. The lags were found to vary in time according to the different stages of growth. At the top the xylem lagged behind the whole stem between the beginning of stem growth and the end of shoot growth in both years. In 2001 the time lags at the base showed a similar behaviour during stem growth. That kind of seasonal pattern of the time lags would result from the changes in the sink strength due to changing growth rate at different parts of the tree and the differences in the annual rhythm of growth and water availability in the soil (based on precipitation measurements) between the years 2001 and 2002 were reflected in the patterns. The time lags of shrinking and swelling periods during high and low photosynthetic activity (measured using a shoot chamber) were also compared. It was found, for example, that in 2001 in the middle of the growing season at the top of the tree the whole stem lagged on average 15 min more behind the xylem on the days of high photosynthetic activity than on the days of low or moderate. These results show for the first time that the transportation of carbohydrates and variable sink activity could be detected during the growing season in field conditions using stem and xylem diameter variation measurements. Furthermore, these results provide evidence of the pressure gradient-driven flow also in the phloem of gymnosperms.