Sap flow in the stems of two cut saplings each of Eucalyptus maculata (a canopy eucalypt forest tree), Doryphora sassafras and Ceratopetalum apetalum (both canopy rainforest trees of south-eastern coastal Australia) was measured by the heat pulse velocity technique and compared with water uptake from a potometer. Scanning electron micrographs of wounding caused by implantation of temperature sensor and heater probes into the sapwood showed that wounding was similar in rainforest and eucalypt species and was elliptical in shape. A circular wound has been implicitly assumed in previous studies. Accurate measurements of sapling water use were obtained using the smaller transverse wound dimension rather than the larger longitudinal dimension because maximum disruption of sap flow through the xylem vessels occurred in the transverse plane. Accurate measurements of sap flux were obtained above a minimum threshold sap velocity. These velocities were 15·7,10·9 and 9·4 cm h−1 for E. maculata, C. apetalum and D. sassafras, respectively. Below the threshold sap velocity, however, sap flow could not be accurately calculated from measurements of heat pulse velocity. The minimum threshold sap velocity appeared to be determined by probe construction and xylem anatomy. Despite the elliptical wounding and inaccurate measurement of sap flow below the threshold sap velocity, total sap flow over the experimental period for two saplings of each species was within 7% of water use measured by the potometer.
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