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Frost fatigue and its spring recovery of xylem conduits in ring-porous, diffuse-porous, and coniferous species in situ

Dai, Yongxin, Wang, Lin, Wan, Xianchong
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2020 v.146 pp. 177-186
autumn, branches, conifers, embolism, frost, frost injury, hydraulic conductivity, spring, translocation (plant physiology), trees, winter, wood, xylem, xylem water potential
Frost-induced embolism and frost fatigue are two major aspects of frost damage to xylem water transport in trees. In this study, three species of each ring-porous, diffuse-porous, and coniferous trees growing in situ were used to explore their differences in winter embolism and frost fatigue. Changes in predawn water potential, predawn native embolism, maximal specific conductivity (Kmax), and cavitation resistance (P50, xylem water potential at 50% loss of conductivity) of current-year branches were measured from autumn to spring. Maximum native embolism of late winter was near 100% for ring-porous species, approximately 80% for diffuse-porous species, and below 50% for conifers. In early spring, there was no significant reduction of native embolism until formation of new vessels in ring-porous trees, while diffuse-porous trees and conifers exhibited a reduction in native embolism before development of new xylem. There was a significant decrease in P50 of ring- and diffuse-porous species over winter; however, in May P50 was markedly reduced along with formation of new vessels. Kmax of ring- and diffuse-porous species significantly decreased from autumn to late winter. The results revealed that vulnerability to cavitation and frost fatigue was related to conduit diameter. The strategies for coping with winter embolism differed among the three wood types: in ring-porous species there was no active embolism refilling; in diffuse-porous species there was refilling associated with positive xylem pressure; and in conifers there was refilling without positive xylem pressure. New vessels could completely restore stem hydraulic conductivity but only partially restore xylem cavitation resistance in spring.