Developmental patterns of above-ground hydraulic conductance in a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) age sequence

Authors

  • M. MENCUCCINI,

    Corresponding author
    1. Istituto di Ecologia Forestale e Selvicoltura. Università degli studi di Firenze. Via S. Bonaventura, 13, 50145 Firenze, Italy.
      Correspondence and Present address: Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Cornell University. Tower Road, Ithaca, 14853–1801 NY. USA.
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  • J. GRACE

    1. Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburgh, Darwin Building. Mayfield Road. Edinburgh, EH93JU, UK
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Correspondence and Present address: Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Cornell University. Tower Road, Ithaca, 14853–1801 NY. USA.

ABSTRACT

Hydraulic resistance to water flow was measured in branches and stems of Scots pine trees ranging from 7 to 59 years of age in Thetford (East Anglia, UK). On the basis of these measurements, tree above-ground conductance was calculated and related to the amount of leaf area sustained by each tree. Branches at the crown bottom had a lower proportion of sapwood area and a lower total hydraulic conductance than branches of the same diameter at the tree top. Within branches, most of the hydraulic resistance was located near the needles. Tree above-ground conductance was positively related to tree diameter and inversely related to tree height. Compared with young trees, mature trees had about 4 times less above-ground conductance per unit of leaf area. Apparently, the increase in pathway length associated with tree height growth could be only partially compensated for by the increase in conductive capacities resulting from diameter growth. We argue that this reduction may account for reported decreases of stomatal conductance with tree age. It is suggested that the increase in branchiness associated with tree maturation may represent a compensation mechanism to reduce the overall resistance to water flow in the crowns.

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