, Volume 143, Issue 2, pp 189-197
Date: 24 Dec 2004

Root hydraulic conductivity and whole-plant water balance in tropical saplings following a shade-to-sun transfer

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We hypothesized that pioneer and late successional species show different morphological and physiological responses in water use after gap formation. The magnitude of the responses was compared between two pioneer species (Macaranga gigantea and Trema orientalis) and four late successional species (Shorea sp.), in an experiment in which saplings were transferred from shade to sun. Although transpiration demand increased following the transfer, root hydraulic conductivity (Lp r) decreased. Lp r was sensitive to brief treatments with HgCl2 (a specific inhibitor of aquaporins). This allows Lp r to be divided into two components: cell-to-cell and apoplastic pathways. The Lp r of cell-to-cell pathway decreased in all species following the transfer, relating to aquaporin depression in roots. Following the transfer, leaf osmotic potentials at full hydration decreased and both leaf mass per area [leaf mass/leaf area (LMA)] and fine-root surface area/leaf surface area (root SA/leaf SA) increased in almost all species, allowing saplings to compensate for the decrease in Lp r. Physiologically, pioneer species showed larger decreases in Lp r and more effective osmotic adjustment than late successional species, and morphologically, pioneer species showed larger increases in root SA/leaf SA and LMA. Water balance at the whole-plant level should be regulated by coupled responses between the aboveground and the belowground parts. Interspecific differences in responses after gap formation suggest niche differentiation in water use between pioneer and late successional species in accordance with canopy-gap size.