Xylem vulnerability to cavitation can be accurately characterised in species with long vessels using a centrifuge method


  • Editor J. Sparks


M. Tobin, Department of Natural Sciences, University of Houston-Downtown, One Main Street, Houstan, TX 77002, CA 93311, USA.

E-mail: tobinm@uhd.edu


Vulnerability to cavitation curves describe the decrease in xylem hydraulic conductivity as xylem pressure declines. Several techniques for constructing vulnerability curves use centrifugal force to induce negative xylem pressure in stem or root segments. Centrifuge vulnerability curves constructed for long-vesselled species have been hypothesised to overestimate xylem vulnerability to cavitation due to increased vulnerability of vessels cut open at stem ends that extend to the middle or entirely through segments. We tested two key predictions of this hypothesis: (i) centrifugation induces greater embolism than dehydration in long-vesselled species, and (ii) the proportion of open vessels changes centrifuge vulnerability curves. Centrifuge and dehydration vulnerability curves were compared for a long- and short-vesselled species. The effect of open vessels was tested in four species by comparing centrifuge vulnerability curves for stems of two lengths. Centrifuge and dehydration vulnerability curves agreed well for the long- and short-vesselled species. Centrifuge vulnerability curves constructed using two stem lengths were similar. Also, the distribution of embolism along the length of centrifuged stems matched the theoretical pressure profile induced by centrifugation. We conclude that vulnerability to cavitation can be accurately characterised with vulnerability curves constructed using a centrifuge technique, even in long-vesselled species.