Observations of stem water storage in trees of opposing hydraulic strategies

TitleObservations of stem water storage in trees of opposing hydraulic strategies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMatheny AM, Bohrer G, Garrity SR, Morin TH, Howard CJ, Vogel CS
Date Published09/2015
Type of ArticleDissertation

Hydraulic capacitance and water storage form a critical buffer against cavitation and loss of conductivity within the xylem system. Withdrawal from water storage in leaves, branches, stems, and roots significantly impacts sap flow, stomatal conductance, and transpiration. Storage quantities differ based on soil water availability, tree size, wood anatomy and density, drought tolerance, and hydraulic strategy (anisohydric or isohydric). However, the majority of studies focus on the measurement of storage in conifers or tropical tree species. We demonstrate a novel methodology using frequency domain reflectometry (FDR) to make continuous, direct measurements of wood water content in two hardwood species in a forest in Michigan. We present results of a two month study comparing the water storage dynamics between a mature red oak and red maple, two species with differing wood densities, hydraulic architecture, and hydraulic strategy. We also include results pertaining to the use of different probe lengths to sample water content only within the active sapwood and over the entire conductive sapwood and the outer portion of heartwood in red oak. Both species studied exhibited diurnal cycles of storage that aligned well with the dynamics of sap flux. Red maple, a diffuse porous, relatively isohydric species showed a strong dependence on stored water during both wet and dry periods. Red oak, a ring porous relatively anisohydric species, was less reliant on storage, and did not demonstrate a dependence on soil water potential. Comparison between long and short FDR probes in the oak revealed that oaks may utilize water stored in the innermost layers of the xylem when soil moisture conditions are limiting. We found the FDR probes to be a reliable, functional means for continuous automated measurement of wood water content in hardwoods at a fast time scale. Application of FDR technology for the measurement of tree water storage will benefit forest ecologists as well as the modeling community as we improve our understanding and simulations of plant hydrodynamic processes on a large scale.