Comparison of sap flow, cavitation and water status of Quercus petraea and Quercus cerris trees with special reference to computer tomography


Dr Antonio in Raschi. C.N.R.-I.A.T.A. Piazzale delle Cascine 18, 50l44-Firenze, Italy


Concurrent measurements of sap velocity (heat pulse) and ultrasound acoustic emission were performed on the trunks of mature Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea) trees. Plant water status was assessed by measuring leaf water potential, leaf conductance and transpiration. Wood density was estimated non-destructively on the trunk section of the plants by mobile computer tomography, which measures the attenuation of a collimated beam of radiation traversing the trunk in several directions, as the device rotates around the tree. Absorption is proportional to the density of the wood. As wood density is strictly correlated to water content, this non-invasive method allows the water content in the trunk section to be evaluated as well as mapped. Leaf water potential declined each morning until a minimum was reached at midday and recovered in the afternoon, lagging behind changes in transpiration rate. Good correspondence was found between the patterns of sap velocity and cavitation rate. A close correlation was demonstrated between wood density, water content and sap velocity. Sap now was always higher in Turkey oak than in sessile oak. Trunk signatures by computer tomography appeared to differentiate the two oak species, with the Turkey oak stem clearly more hydrated than the sessile oak; water storage reservoirs could play an important role in tree survival during extended periods of low soil water availability and in the relative distribution of tree species, especially in the context of global climate change. Late-wood conducting elements of oak species seem to play a significant role in water transport. The mobile computer tomograph was confirmed as a peerless tool for investigating stem water relations. Diurnal variations in the measured parameters under natural drought conditions and the differences between the two oak species are discussed.