University Of Tasmania
141013 - Non-invasive imaging reveals convergence in root and stem vulnerability to cavitation across five tree species.pdf (2.27 MB)
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Non-invasive imaging reveals convergence in root and stem vulnerability to cavitation across five tree species

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 18:02 authored by Peters, JMR, Gauthey, A, Lopez, R, Madeline Carins-MurphyMadeline Carins-Murphy, Timothy BrodribbTimothy Brodribb, Choat, B
Root vulnerability to cavitation is challenging to measure and under-represented in current datasets. This gap limits the precision of models used to predict plant responses to drought because roots comprise the critical interface between plant and soil. In this study we measured vulnerability to drought induced cavitation in woody roots and stems of five tree species (Acacia aneura, Cedrus deodara, Eucalyptus crebra, Eucalytus saligna, and Quercus palustris) with a wide range of xylem anatomies. X-ray microtomography was used to visualize the accumulation of xylem embolism in stems and roots of intact plants that were naturally dehydrated to varying levels of water stress. Vulnerability to cavitation, defined as the water potential causing a 50% loss of hydraulic function (P50), varied broadly among the species (-4.51 to -11.93 MPa in stems and -3.13 to -9.64 MPa in roots). The P50 of roots and stems was significantly related across species, with species that had more vulnerable stems also having more vulnerable roots. While there was strong convergence in root and stem vulnerability to cavitation, the P50 of roots was significantly higher than the P50 of stems in three species. However, the difference in root and stem vulnerability for these species was small; between 1% to 31% of stem P50. Thus, while some differences existed between organs, roots were not dramatically more vulnerable to embolism than stems and the differences observed were less than those reported in previous studies. Further study is required to evaluate the vulnerability across root orders and to extend these conclusions to a greater number of species and xylem functional types.


Publication title

Journal of Experimental Botany

Article number







School of Natural Sciences


Oxford Univ Press

Place of publication

Great Clarendon St, Oxford, England, Ox2 6Dp

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Ecosystem adaptation to climate change; Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

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