Drought-induced dieback of Pinus nigra: a tale of hydraulic failure and carbon starvation.
ABSTRACT: Ongoing climate change is apparently increasing tree mortality rates, and understanding mechanisms of drought-induced tree decline can improve mortality projections. Differential drought impact on conspecific individuals within a population has been reported, but no clear mechanistic explanation for this pattern has emerged. Following a severe drought (summer 2012), we monitored over a 3-year period healthy (H) and declining (D) Pinus nigra trees co-occurring in a karstic woodland to highlight eventual individual-specific physiological differences underlying differential canopy dieback. We investigated differences in water and carbon metabolism, and xylem anatomy as a function of crown health status, as well as eventual genotypic basis of contrasting drought responses. H and D trees exploited the same water pools and relied on similar hydraulic strategies to cope with drought stress. Genetic analyses did not highlight differences between groups in terms of geographical provenance. Hydraulic and anatomical analyses showed conflicting results. The hydraulic tracheid diameter and theoretical hydraulic conductivity were similar, but D trees were characterized by lower water transport efficiency, greater vulnerability to xylem conduit implosion and reduced carbohydrate stores. Our results suggest that extreme drought events can have different impacts on conspecific individuals, with differential vulnerability to xylem embolism likely playing a major role in setting the fate of trees under climate change.
Project description:Changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) affect plant carbon/water tradeoffs, with implications for drought tolerance. Leaf-level studies often indicate that drought tolerance may increase with rising [CO2], but integrated leaf and xylem responses are not well understood in this respect. In addition, the influence of the low [CO2] of the last glacial period on drought tolerance and xylem properties is not well understood. We investigated the interactive effects of a broad range of [CO2] and plant water potentials on leaf function, xylem structure and function and the integration of leaf and xylem function in Phaseolus vulgaris. Elevated [CO2] decreased vessel implosion strength, reduced conduit-specific hydraulic conductance, and compromised leaf-specific xylem hydraulic conductance under moderate drought. By contrast, at glacial [CO2], transpiration was maintained under moderate drought via greater conduit-specific and leaf-specific hydraulic conductance in association with increased vessel implosion strength. Our study involving the integration of leaf and xylem responses suggests that increasing [CO2] does not improve drought tolerance. We show that, under glacial conditions, changes in leaf and xylem properties could increase drought tolerance, while under future conditions, greater productivity may only occur when higher water use can be accommodated.
Project description:Understanding the vulnerability of trees to drought-induced mortality is key to predicting the fate of forests in a future climate with more frequent and intense droughts, although the underlying mechanisms are difficult to study in adult trees. Here, we explored the dynamic changes of water relations and limits of hydraulic function in dying adults of Norway spruce (<i>Picea abies</i> L.) during the progression of the record-breaking 2018 Central European drought. In trees on the trajectory to drought-induced mortality, we observed rapid, nonlinear declines of xylem pressure that commenced at the early onset of xylem cavitation and caused a complete loss of xylem hydraulic conductance within a very short time. We also observed severe depletions of nonstructural carbohydrates, though carbon starvation could be ruled out as the cause of the observed tree death, as both dying and surviving trees showed these metabolic limitations. Our observations provide striking field-based evidence for fast dehydration and hydraulic collapse as the cause of drought-induced mortality in adult Norway spruce. The nonlinear decline of tree water relations suggests that considering the temporal dynamics of dehydration is critical for predicting tree death. The collapse of the hydraulic system within a short time demonstrates that trees can rapidly be pushed out of the zone of hydraulic safety during the progression of a severe drought. In summary, our findings point toward a higher mortality risk for Norway spruce than previously assumed, which is in line with current reports of unprecedented levels of drought-induced mortality in this major European tree species.
Project description:Plant hydraulic traits influence the capacity of species to grow and survive in water-limited environments, but their comparative study at a common site has been limited. The primary aim of this study was to determine whether selective pressures on species originating in drought-prone environments constrain hydraulic traits among related species grown under common conditions.Leaf tissue water relations, xylem anatomy, stomatal behaviour and vulnerability to drought-induced embolism were measured on six Eucalyptus species growing in a common garden to determine whether these traits were related to current species climate range and to understand linkages between the traits.Hydraulically weighted xylem vessel diameter, leaf turgor loss point, the water potential at stomatal closure and vulnerability to drought-induced embolism were significantly ( P < 0·05) correlated with climate parameters from the species range. There was a co-ordination between stem and leaf parameters with the water potential at turgor loss, 12 % loss of conductivity and the point of stomatal closure significantly correlated.The correlation of hydraulic, stomatal and anatomical traits with climate variables from the species' original ranges suggests that these traits are genetically constrained. The conservative nature of xylem traits in Eucalyptus trees has important implications for the limits of species responses to changing environmental conditions and thus for species survival and distribution into the future, and yields new information for physiological models.
Project description:Fertilization of woody plants plays a central role in agriculture and forestry, but little is known about how plant water relations are thereby affected. Here we investigated the impact of fertilization on tree hydraulics, and xylem and pit anatomy in the high-yield apple cultivars Golden and Red Delicious. In fertilized trees of Golden Delicious, specific hydraulic conductivity of branch xylem, hydraulic conductance of the root system, and maximum stomatal conductance increased considerably. In Red Delicious, differences between fertilized and control trees were less pronounced. In both cultivars, xylem embolism resistance of fertilized trees was significantly lower and stomatal closure occurred at lower water potentials. Furthermore, water potential at turgor loss point and osmotic potential at full saturation were higher and cell wall elasticity was lower in fertilized plants, suggesting reduced drought tolerance of leaves. Anatomical differences were observed regarding conduit diameters, cell wall reinforcement, pit membrane thickness, pit chamber depth, and stomatal pore length, with more pronounced differences in Golden Delicious. The findings reveal altered hydraulic behaviour in both apple cultivars upon fertilization. The increased vulnerability to hydraulic failure might pose a considerable risk for apple productivity under a changing climate, which should be considered for future cultivation and management practices.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>The ability to avoid drought-induced embolisms in the xylem is one of the essential traits for plants to survive periods of water shortage. Over the past three decades, hydraulic studies have been focusing on trees, which limits our ability to understand how herbs tolerate drought. Here we investigate the embolism resistance in inflorescence stems of four Arabidopsis thaliana accessions that differ in growth form and drought response. We assess functional traits underlying the variation in embolism resistance amongst the accessions studied using detailed anatomical observations.<h4>Methods</h4>Vulnerability to xylem embolism was evaluated via vulnerability curves using the centrifuge technique and linked with detailed anatomical observations in stems using light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.<h4>Key results</h4>The data show significant differences in stem P50, varying 2-fold from -1.58 MPa in the Cape Verde Island accession to -3.07 MPa in the woody soc1 ful double mutant. Out of all the anatomical traits measured, intervessel pit membrane thickness (TPM) best explains the differences in P50, as well as P12 and P88. The association between embolism resistance and TPM can be functionally explained by the air-seeding hypothesis. There is no evidence that the correlation between increased woodiness and increased embolism resistance is directly related to functional aspects. However, we found that increased woodiness is strongly linked to other lignification characters, explaining why mechanical stem reinforcement is indirectly related to increased embolism resistance.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The woodier or more lignified accessions are more resistant to embolism than the herbaceous accessions, confirming the link between increased stem lignification and increased embolism resistance, as also observed in other lineages. Intervessel pit membrane thickness and, to a lesser extent, theoretical vessel implosion resistance and vessel wall thickness are the missing functional links between stem lignification and embolism resistance.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>The co-occurring of evergreen and deciduous angiosperm trees in Asian tropical dry forests on karst substrates suggests the existence of different water-use strategies among species. In this study it is hypothesized that the co-occurring evergreen and deciduous trees differ in stem hydraulic traits and leaf water relationships, and there will be correlated evolution in drought tolerance between leaves and stems.<h4>Methods</h4>A comparison was made of stem hydraulic conductivity, vulnerability curves, wood anatomy, leaf life span, leaf pressure-volume characteristics and photosynthetic capacity of six evergreen and six deciduous tree species co-occurring in a tropical dry karst forest in south-west China. The correlated evolution of leaf and stem traits was examined using both traditional and phylogenetic independent contrasts correlations.<h4>Key results</h4>It was found that the deciduous trees had higher stem hydraulic efficiency, greater hydraulically weighted vessel diameter (D(h)) and higher mass-based photosynthetic rate (A(m)); while the evergreen species had greater xylem-cavitation resistance, lower leaf turgor-loss point water potential (?(0)) and higher bulk modulus of elasticity. There were evolutionary correlations between leaf life span and stem hydraulic efficiency, A(m), and dry season ?(0). Xylem-cavitation resistance was evolutionarily correlated with stem hydraulic efficiency, D(h), as well as dry season ?(0). Both wood density and leaf density were closely correlated with leaf water-stress tolerance and A(m).<h4>Conclusions</h4>The results reveal the clear distinctions in stem hydraulic traits and leaf water-stress tolerance between the co-occurring evergreen and deciduous angiosperm trees in an Asian dry karst forest. A novel pattern was demonstrated linking leaf longevity with stem hydraulic efficiency and leaf water-stress tolerance. The results show the correlated evolution in drought tolerance between stems and leaves.
Project description:Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs) have been suggested to affect xylem transport under fluctuating water availability, but conclusive evidence is still lacking. We tested the effect of shade-induced NSC depletion on xylem vulnerability to embolism and hydraulic recovery on Populus nigra saplings. Vulnerability was assessed in light-exposed (L) and shaded (S) plants with the hydraulic method, and in vivo with the optical method and X-ray micro-computed tomography. Plants were stressed to 80% loss of hydraulic conductance (PLC) and re-irrigated to check for possible recovery. We measured PLC, bark and wood NSC content, as well as xylem sap pH, surface tension (γ<sub>sap</sub> ) and sugar concentration, before, during and after drought. Shading induced depletion of stem NSC (mainly starch) reserves. All methods converged in indicating higher xylem vulnerability in S than in L plants. This difference was not explained by xylem vessel and pit anatomy or by γ<sub>sap</sub> . Shading impeded sap acidification and sugar accumulation during drought in S plants and prevented hydraulic recovery, which was observed in L plants. Our results highlight the importance of stem NSCs to sustain xylem hydraulic functioning during drought and suggest that light and/or adequate stem NSC thresholds are required to trigger xylem sap chemical changes involved in embolism recovery.
Project description:Deep-water access is arguably the most effective, but under-studied, mechanism that plants employ to survive during drought. Vulnerability to embolism and hydraulic safety margins can predict mortality risk at given levels of dehydration, but deep-water access may delay plant dehydration. Here, we tested the role of deep-water access in enabling survival within a diverse tropical forest community in Panama using a novel data-model approach. We inversely estimated the effective rooting depth (ERD, as the average depth of water extraction), for 29 canopy species by linking diameter growth dynamics (1990-2015) to vapor pressure deficit, water potentials in the whole-soil column, and leaf hydraulic vulnerability curves. We validated ERD estimates against existing isotopic data of potential water-access depths. Across species, deeper ERD was associated with higher maximum stem hydraulic conductivity, greater vulnerability to xylem embolism, narrower safety margins, and lower mortality rates during extreme droughts over 35 years (1981-2015) among evergreen species. Species exposure to water stress declined with deeper ERD indicating that trees compensate for water stress-related mortality risk through deep-water access. The role of deep-water access in mitigating mortality of hydraulically-vulnerable trees has important implications for our predictive understanding of forest dynamics under current and future climates.
Project description:Functional relationships between wood density and measures of xylem hydraulic safety and efficiency are ambiguous, especially in wet tropical forests. In this meta-analysis, we move beyond wood density per se and identify relationships between xylem allocated to fibers, parenchyma, and vessels and measures of hydraulic safety and efficiency. We analyzed published data of xylem traits, hydraulic properties and measures of drought resistance from neotropical tree species retrieved from 346 sources. We found that xylem volume allocation to fiber walls increases embolism resistance, but at the expense of specific conductivity and sapwood capacitance. Xylem volume investment in fiber lumen increases capacitance, while investment in axial parenchyma is associated with higher specific conductivity. Dominant tree taxa from wet forests prioritize xylem allocation to axial parenchyma at the expense of fiber walls, resulting in a low embolism resistance for a given wood density and a high vulnerability to drought-induced mortality. We conclude that strong trade-offs between xylem allocation to fiber walls, fiber lumen, and axial parenchyma drive drought resistance in neotropical trees. Moreover, the benefits of xylem allocation to axial parenchyma in wet tropical trees might not outweigh the consequential low embolism resistance under more frequent and severe droughts in a changing climate.
Project description:Trunks of large trees play an important role in whole-plant water balance but technical difficulties have limited most hydraulic research to small stems, leaves, and roots. To investigate the dynamics of water-related processes in tree trunks, such as winter embolism refilling, xylem hydraulic vulnerability, and water storage, volumetric water content (VWC) in the main stem was monitored continuously using frequency domain moisture sensors in adult Betula papyrifera trees from early spring through the beginning of winter. An air injection technique was developed to estimate hydraulic vulnerability of the trunk xylem. Trunk VWC increased in early spring and again in autumn, concurrently with root pressure during both seasons. Diurnal fluctuations and a gradual decrease in trunk VWC through the growing season were observed, which, in combination with VWC increase after significant rainfall events and depletion during periods of high water demand, indicate the importance of stem water storage in both short- and long-term water balance. Comparisons between the trunk air injection results and conventional branch hydraulic vulnerability curves showed no evidence of 'vulnerability segmentation' between the main stem and small branches in B. papyrifera. Measurements of VWC following air injection, together with evidence from air injection and xylem dye perfusion, indicate that embolized vessels can be refilled by active root pressure but not in the absence of root pressure. The precise, continuous, and non-destructive measurement of wood water content using frequency domain sensors provides an ideal way to probe many hydraulic processes in large tree trunks that are otherwise difficult to investigate.