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Are hydraulic patterns of lianas different from trees? New insights from Hedera helix.

Journal of Experimental Botany

Ganthaler, A., Marx, K., Beikircher, B., & Mayr, S.

2019

Journal of Experimental Botany

70(10)

2811-2822

Lianas form long and flexible but disproportionately narrow stems, and thus require particular strategies to maintain the integrity of xylem water transport and ensure supply to large crown areas. The hydraulic architecture of lianas and the respective within-plant coordination of transport efficiency and safety, and the underlying anatomical variations in xylem, are largely unexplored. We analysed Hedera helix, a liana widespread in European temperate forests, with respect to hydraulic and xylem anatomical variations between the main stem and branches, between juvenile and adult life phases, and along the vertical axis. Main stems were significantly less embolism resistant but exhibited a higher hydraulic conductivity than branches. In branches, the cell turgor loss point of leaves decreased, while the embolism resistance and conductivity of xylem, as well as conduit diameters, increased with height. High water-transport capacities allow ivy to compensate for the small cross-section of stems, while the limited resistance to drought-induced xylem dysfunction of the main stem is probably linked to conservative stomatal regulation. Pronounced differences in xylem anatomy, hydraulic efficiency, and safety between the main stem and branches and along the vertical axis are surprisingly similar to those of self-supporting plants, and indicate that the coordination of carbon and water economies requires similar internal adjustments in tall plants.

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The Liana Ecology Project is supported by Marquette University and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.