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Are leaves ‘freewheelin'? Testing for a Wheeler‐type effect in leaf xylem hydraulic decline
- SCOFFONI, CHRISTINE, SACK, LAWREN
- Plant, cell and environment 2015 v.38 no.3 pp. 534-543
- cutting, mechanical stress, petioles, shoots, xylem
- A recent study found that cutting shoots under water while xylem was under tension (which has been the standard protocol for the past few decades) could produce artefactual embolisms inside the xylem, overestimating hydraulic vulnerability relative to shoots cut under water after relaxing xylem tension (Wheeler et al. 2013). That study also raised the possibility that such a ‘Wheeler effect’ might occur in studies of leaf hydraulic vulnerability. We tested for such an effect for four species by applying a modified vacuum pump method to leaves with minor veins severed, to construct leaf xylem hydraulic vulnerability curves. We tested for an impact on leaf xylem hydraulic conductance (Kₓ) of cutting the petiole and minor veins under water for dehydrated leaves with xylem under tension compared with dehydrated leaves after previously relaxing xylem tension. Our results showed no significant ‘cutting artefact’ for leaf xylem. The lack of an effect for leaves could not be explained by narrower or shorter xylem conduits, and may be due to lesser mechanical stress imposed when cutting leaf petioles, and/or to rapid refilling of emboli in petioles. These findings provide the first validation of previous measurements of leaf hydraulic vulnerability against this potential artefact.