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Hydraulic traits are associated with the distribution range of two closely related Mediterranean firs, Abies alba Mill. and Abies pinsapo Boiss

By José Javier Peguero-Pina, Domingo Sancho-Knapik, Hervé Cochard, Gonzalo Barredo, Dido Villarroya and Eustaquio Gil-Pelegrin


Abies alba and Abies pinsapo are two closely related fir species that occur in the Iberian Peninsula under very different environmental conditions. Abies alba proliferates in the humid European mountains, including the Spanish Pyrenees. In contrast, A. pinsapo is a relict species that occurs in some restricted areas of the Mediterranean mountain ranges in Spain and Morocco, which experience intense summer drought periods. To cope with the high atmospheric evaporative demand during summer, A. pinsapo may either have a high resistance to xylem cavitation or develop a very efficient conducting system to reduce the soil-to-leaf water potential gradient. To investigate such hypotheses, we measured (i) the xylem vulnerability to cavitation for different populations, and (ii) several anatomical and hydraulic parameters indicating xylem sufficiency for -supplying water to the shoot in two contrasting populations of both species. Our results show that the resistance to cavitation was not different between species or populations. However, hydraulic conductivity (K(h)), specific hydraulic conductivity (K(s)), leaf-specific conductivity (LSC) and whole-shoot hydraulic conductance (K(shoot)) were higher in A. pinsapo, indicating a higher efficiency of water transport, which should contribute to maintaining its xylem tension below the threshold for rapidly increasing cavitation. The higher K(s) in A. pinsapo was largely a result of its wider tracheids, suggesting that this species may be much more vulnerable to freeze-thaw-induced cavitation than A. alba. This is consistent with the absence of A. pinsapo in northern mountain ranges with cooler winters. These physiological differences could partly explain the niche segregation and the geographical separation of these two firs

Topics: CAVITATION, SAPIN ARGENTE, WINTER FROST, WATER POTENTIAL, SUMMER DROUGHT, [SDV.SA.SF]Life Sciences [q-bio]/Agricultural sciences/Silviculture, forestry
Publisher: 'Oxford University Press (OUP)'
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1093/treephys/tpr092
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-00964826v1
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