Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2008, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (1): 183-188.doi: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2008.01.021

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles


HUANG Ju-Ying1,3; CAI Jing1; JIANG Zai-Min2; ZHANG Shuo-Xin1*; YU Hai-Long1,4,5   

  1. 1College of Forestry, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100 , China; 2 College of Life Sciences, Northwest A & F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China; 3 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation & Environmental Changes, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093,China; 4 School of Resources Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China; 5 Qinling National Forest Ecosystem Research Station, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
  • Online:2008-01-30 Published:2008-01-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Shuo-Xin

Abstract: Aims Xylem embolism is a physiological response of tree species to adverse environmental factors, such as water deficit.
However there is little research on relationships between phosphorus and xylem embolism. Our objectives were to 1) explore
whether phosphorus could increase xylem embolism occurrence and 2) test the hypothesis of “drought tolerance by restricting
sap flow in xylem". 
Methods The tree species Acer truncatum and Ligustrum lucidum were chosen to study the response of xylem embolism (measured
as percentage loss of hydraulic conductivity, PLC) to phosphorus addition under drought-stressed and well-watered treatments
(soil water content of about 30%-40% and 70%-80% of field moisture capacity, respectively).
Important findings Daily PLC ranged from 60.7% to 70.7% in A. truncatum and 43.9%-72.3% in L. lucidum, indicating that
occurrence and refilling of xylem embolism was a usual event in these woody plants. Phosphorus addition raised PLC
significantly forA. truncatum at each water status and L. lucidum was subjected to drought. A. truncatum had more xylem
embolism occurrence with drought than when well-watered, but there was no significant difference within two water statuses in
L. lucidum. Drought could increase the embolism vulnerability of A. truncatum, causing higher percentage loss of hydraulic
conductivity than in L. lucidum under the same water stress. Consequently, drought-resistant trees are not always
invulnerable to water deficit. This might be a strategy for a water-limited environment. This study suggests that xylem
embolism might be a “hydraulic signal" in plants. Once a plant is under water stress, its xylem conduits become cavited or
embolized, resulting in decreased hydraulic conductivity and closure of stomata to maintain water balance by reducing water
transportation and consumption. This study supports the hypothesis of “drought tolerance by restricting sap flow in xylem ".

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