Relations between vulnerability to xylem embolism and xylem conduit dimensions in young trees of Quercus corris


S. Salleo, Dipartimentio di Biologia, Universitá di Trieste, via A. Valerio 32/27 Teieste, Italy.


Measurements of xylem conduit length and width and the distribution of xylem conduit ends were made in inter-nodes (I), nodes (N) and twig junctions (J) of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old twigs of plants of Quercus cerris L. Parallel measurements were also made of the loss of hydraulic conductivity of twigs subjected to pressure differentials across conduit pit membranes, equalling the leaf water potential at the turgor loss point. The loss of theoretical hydraulic conductivity was calculated as the ratio of i esivr4 (where r is the conduit radius) of the non-conducting conduits to that of all the conduits in the outermost wood ring of I, N and J. Stem zones such as 1-year-old nodes and junctions were localized with narrower and shorter xylem conduits and with higher percentages of conduit ends than internodes. Such ‘constricted zonesrsquo; were less vulnerable to embolism than internodes. Latewood conduits were consistently narrower, shorter and less vulnerable to embolism than earlywood ones. A positive relation therefore existed between conduit diameter and length and vulnerability to embolism. The overall vulnerability to embolism of Q. cerris plants is discussed in terms of xylem conduit width and length and of the distribution of conduit ends.