, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 543-550
Date: 14 Feb 2008

Are radial changes in vascular anatomy mechanically induced or an ageing process? Evidence from observations on buttressed tree root systems

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Abstract

To investigate the effect of changes in mechanical loading conditions on radial anatomical patterns, we here compare the trunk with the roots in two locations of three species of buttressed trees. The proximal part of the buttress roots is highly mechanically loaded throughout juvenile growth whereas the distal part of the buttresses is though to be mechanically unimportant at formation but become progressively more mechanically loaded during growth. We measured the frequency and diameter of the vessels and the vessel area fraction, and from this calculated the specific conductivity of tissue samples of the core-, intermediate- and outer wood. As in previous studies there was an increase in vessel size, vessel area fraction and specific conductivity from the pith to the bark in the trunk. In the proximal part of the buttress roots, however, there was no increase in vessel size and conductivity from core wood and out in agreement with the high mechanical loading found here throughout growth. There was instead a decrease in vessel size, vessel area fraction and specific conductivity from core- to outer wood in the distal part of the buttress roots in accordance with the increase in mechanical loading. Hence, it appears that the radial anatomical patterns are not a passive function of cambial ageing but may be modified in response to local mechanical loading.

Communicated by H. Cochard.