• Acer saccharum;
  • acoustic emission;
  • hydraulic conductance;
  • stem psychrometer;
  • Thuja occidentalis;
  • Tsuga canadensis

A comparison was made of the relative vulnerability of xylem conduits to cavitation and embolism in three species [Thuja occidentalis L., Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr. and Acer saccharum Marsh.]. Waterlogged samples of wood were air dehydrated while measuring relative water loss, loss of hydraulic conductance, cumulative acoustic emissions (= cavitations) and xylem water potential. Most cavitation events and loss of hydraulic conductance occurred while water potential declined from – 1 to –6 MPa. There were differences in vulnerability between species. Other people have hypothesized that large xylem conduits (e.g. vessels) should be more vulnerable to cavitations than small conduits (e.g. tracheids). Our findings are contrary to this hypothesis. Under water stress, the vessel bearing wood retained water better than tracheid bearing wood. However, within a species large conduits were more prone to cavitation than small conduits.