Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Impact of elevated atmospheric humidity on anatomical and hydraulic traits of xylem in hybrid aspen

Anna Katarzyna Jasińska A B D , Meeli Alber A , Arvo Tullus A , Märt Rahi C and Arne Sellin A

A Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Lai 40, 51005 Tartu, Estonia.

B Institute of Dendrology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Parkowa 5, 62-035 Kórnik, Poland.

C Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Kreutzwaldi 5, 51014 Tartu, Estonia.

D Corresponding author. Email: jasiak9@wp.pl

Functional Plant Biology 42(6) 565-578 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP14224
Submitted: 11 August 2014  Accepted: 17 February 2015   Published: 20 March 2015

Abstract

This study was performed on hybrid aspen saplings growing at the Free Air Humidity Manipulation site in Estonia. We investigated changes in wood anatomy and hydraulic conductivity in response to increased air humidity. Two hydraulic traits (specific conductivity and leaf-specific conductivity) and four anatomical traits of stem wood – relative vessel area (VA), vessel density (VD), pit area and pit aperture area – were influenced by the humidity manipulation. Stem hydraulic traits decreased in the apical direction, whereas branch hydraulic characteristics tended to be greatest in mid-canopy, associated with branch size. A reduction in VD due to increasing humidity was accompanied by a decrease in vessel lumen diameter, hydraulically weighted mean diameter (Dh), xylem vulnerability index and theoretical hydraulic conductivity. VA and Dh combined accounted for 87.4% of the total variation in kt of branches and 85.5% of that in stems across the treatments. Characters of branch vessels were more stable, and only the vessel-grouping index (the ratio of the total number of vessels to the total number of vessel groupings) was dependent on the interactive effect of the treatment and canopy position. Our results indicate that the increasing atmospheric humidity predicted for high latitudes will result in moderate changes in the structure and functioning of the hybrid aspen xylem.

Additional keywords: atmospheric humidity, bordered pits, canopy position, hydraulic conductivity, vessel diameter, wood anatomy.


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