Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (2): 238-251.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0198

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Anatomical characteristics of xylem in tree rings and its relationship with environments

Liang-Jun ZHU1, Zong-Shan LI2, Xiao-Chun WANG1,*()   

  1. 1Center for Ecological Research, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin 150040, China

    2State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  • Received:2016-06-12 Accepted:2017-01-03 Online:2017-03-16 Published:2017-02-10
  • Contact: Xiao-Chun WANG
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


The anatomical traits of xylem are the characteristics of tree rings at the cellular and subcellular scales, and are often reflection of environmental signals. Studying the relationships between anatomical traits of xylem and environmental change not only provide physiological explanations to the statistics in dendroclimatology, but can also provide a new vision for studying the adaptation process and response strategies of tree growth to climate change. In this paper, with the relationships between the anatomical characteristics of xylem in tree-rings (cell chronology) and climate change as a main thread, we first outline the basic principles and mechanisms of wood anatomical features to record environmental signals, and expounded the basic methods involved in the process of xylem anatomy. Secondly, we discuss the relationship between the anatomical features of xylem and climate factors. We then propose the following as possible directions of future research based on the existing knowledge gap in the topical area: (1) to explore the temporal and spatial variations in the anatomical characteristics of xylem in tree-rings along radial and tangential directions and the relationships with environmental changes; (2) to explore the threshold of tree growth response to environmental plasticity and adaptation processes; (3) to assess the synergistic and antagonistic effects as well as the formation mechanisms of climate response among different tree-ring proxies, and to determine the specific roles and contributions of major climatic factors during different periods of tree-ring formation.

Key words: cell chronologies, xylem anatomy, hydraulic architecture, global change, plastic responses, tree-ring

Fig. 1

The response process in anatomical characteristics of tree-rings to climate change."

Fig. 2

The anatomy of xylem in trees of differential wood porosity. A, Non-porous wood Larix decidua. B, Diffuse porous wood Tilia cordata. C, Ring porous wood Quercus robur. D, Semi-ring porous wood Juglans regia. Cited from Schoch et al., 2004."

Fig. 3

The partial response mechanisms of narrowing in tree-rings caused by low precipitation and high temperatures. The areas marked by blue, red and black indicate the processes occurring prior to the growing season, during the growing season and the entire time, respectively. The effects of high precipitation and low temperatures are in reverse, that is, ring width will increase. Modified from Fritts (1976)."

Table 1

Types and characteristics of common anatomical parameters of xylem"

类型 Type 参数 Parameter 特征 Feature 作用 Function
Di, Nu, Ar, De, GF 由死细胞串联而成, 由穿孔相互衔接
Long straight chain by dead cells, jointed each other by
Transport water and inorganic salt
Di, Nu, Ar, De, CWT 由单个细胞组成, 其不具穿孔
Consists of single cell without perforation
运输水分及矿物质, 机械支持
Transport water and minerals, mechanical support
Resin canal
Di, Nu, An 由分泌细胞彼此分离而形成, 贮存分泌物
Developed as the divergence of secretory cells, storing
The first line of defense reaction to insects and pathogens
Nu, CWT, An 由活射线薄壁细胞构成
Consists of living ray parenchyma cells
Radial transmission of sap
Nu, An 由纤维素分子束聚合而成, 平行排列
Aggregated by cellulose molecular beams, with parallel arrangement
细胞壁组分, 影响细胞及木材的机械性能
Components of cell wall, affect the mechanical properties of cell and wood

Table 2

Summary of the major methods in anatomical analysis of xylem"

显微切片法 Micro section method 直接打磨法
Direct polishing method
传统切片 Conventional slicing 现代切片 Contemporary slicing
Applicable sample type
Micro-core (short)
General core (long)
General core or disk (long)
Sample pretreatment process
Fixation, dehydration, paraffin, embedding, sectioning, sticky pills, dewaxing and dyeing etc.
Sectioning and staining, etc.
Grinding, cleaning and increasing contrast, etc.
Applicable scale
Cells or subcellular
Cells or subcellular
Applicable site
Phloem or xylem
分辨率 Resolution 高 High 高 High 略低 Slightly low
工作量 Workload 重 Heavy 轻 Light 适中 Moderate
Major equipment
General microtome and imaging microscope
Specialized microtome and imaging microscope
High resolution camera or scanner
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