• calcium signalling;
  • fungal effectors;
  • heat signalling;
  • hydraulic conductivity;
  • plant anaerobiosis;
  • Tansley Medal;
  • winter leaf reddening;
  • wood anatomy

New Phytologist instituted the annual Tansley Medal competition for young scientists in 2009, with full information about the competition found in Woodward & Hetherington (2010). The broad spectrum of plant science that is published in New Phytologist means that the applications cover a very wide range of topics and this year was no different. Two editors from New Phytologist sifted through the initial applications that led to a final shortlist of six manuscripts, all of which are published in this issue of New Phytologist.

This year, the winner was Frederic Lens from the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis at Leiden University in the Netherlands. The title of the paper is Testing hypotheses that link wood anatomy to cavitation resistance and hydraulic conductivity in the genus Acer. This nicely inclusive piece of work was carried out by Lens and his co-authors (this issue, pp. 709–723), while on a funded research visit to the laboratory of John Sperry at the University of Utah, in the USA. The research addresses the long-standing debates and theories about the relationships between wood structure and hydraulic transfer in tree xylem. High hydraulic conductivity is correlated with plant productivity but may be vulnerable to cavitation during high rates of water movement. The structure of the pits between individual xylem vessels is a major resistance in the hydraulic pathway to the formation of air bubbles in the xylem that cause cavitation. Lens et al. addressed the range of hypotheses linking pit structure and cavitation resistance using a wide range of techniques, including electron microscopy of pit structure. Many previous studies have been carried out on a wide range of genera, where phylogenetic differences may lead to different plant controls on cavitation resistance. This study reduced this problem by investigating seven taxa, all within the genus Acer. The very clear result that emerged was that cavitation resistance was strongly correlated with the membrane thickness, porosity and chamber depth of the intervessel pits, features best realized using electron microscopy. This response also carried a significant tradeoff in that greater cavitation resistance was strongly associated with lower xylem conductivity. The authors note that these trends in Acer may be different from observations in other tree species and genera, suggesting that evolution may follow different pathways in solving the conflict between cavitation resistance and conductivity.

Congratulations are due also to the following five candidates whose manuscripts are published in this issue of New Phytologist:

Thank you to the many applicants who submitted extended abstracts and to editors and referees for their work in allowing a successful fruition of this year’s competition.


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