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Measurements of stem xylem hydraulic conductivity in the laboratory and field
Article first published online: 25 APR 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution © 2012 British Ecological Society
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 4, pages 685–694, August 2012
How to Cite
Melcher, P. J., Michele Holbrook, N., Burns, M. J., Zwieniecki, M. A., Cobb, A. R., Brodribb, T. J., Choat, B. and Sack, L. (2012), Measurements of stem xylem hydraulic conductivity in the laboratory and field. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 3: 685–694. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2012.00204.x
- Issue published online: 30 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 25 APR 2012
- Received 25 September 2011; accepted 6 March 2012 Handling Editor: Robert Freckleton
- flow meter;
- hydraulic conductivity;
- per cent loss conductivity;
1. Xylem hydraulic properties play an essential role in supporting growth and photosynthesis and influence sensitivity to environmental conditions such as drought and freezing. Consequently, stem hydraulic conductance can be used as a comparative measure of overall hydraulic adaptation across species and to assess the impact of environmental variation, especially drought, on water transport.
2. We summarize the main methods currently in use for measurements of stem xylem hydraulic properties. Measurements can be accomplished in a number of ways, including using a pipette, an analytic balance or a ‘pressure-drop’ flow meter. We provide new details on the design of a relatively inexpensive and easily field-deployable flow meter that is flexible for a variety of applications. The biological challenges associated with these measurements arise from the difficulties of working with diverse living tissues of variable geometry.
3. We provide a review of best practices and provide technical guidance, emphasizing measurements on detached samples using portable equipment.