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Keywords:

  • air injection;
  • bench drying;
  • diurnal recovery;
  • refilling;
  • xylem cavitation

Abstract

We investigated the common assumption that severing stems and petioles under water preserves the hydraulic continuity in the xylem conduits opened by the cut when the xylem is under tension. In red maple and white ash, higher percent loss of conductivity (PLC) in the afternoon occurred when the measurement segment was excised under water at native xylem tensions, but not when xylem tensions were relaxed prior to sample excision. Bench drying vulnerability curves in which measurement samples were excised at native versus relaxed tensions showed a dramatic effect of cutting under tension in red maple, a moderate effect in sugar maple, and no effect in paper birch. We also found that air injection of cut branches (red and sugar maple) at pressures of 0.1 and 1.0 MPa resulted in PLC greater than predicted from vulnerability curves for samples cut 2 min after depressurization, with PLC returning to expected levels for samples cut after 75 min. These results suggest that sampling methods can generate PLC patterns indicative of repair under tension by inducing a degree of embolism that is itself a function of xylem tensions or supersaturation of dissolved gases (air injection) at the moment of sample excision. Implications for assessing vulnerability to cavitation and levels of embolism under field conditions are discussed.