Effects of different light conditions on the xylem structure of Norway spruce needles
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- Gebauer, R., Volařík, D., Urban, J. et al. Trees (2012) 26: 1079. doi:10.1007/s00468-012-0684-9
Conifer needles are extraordinarily variable and much of this diversity is linked to the water transport capacity of the xylem and to xylem conduit properties. However, we still know little about how anatomical characteristics influence the hydraulic efficiency of needle xylem in different parts of the crown. In this study we evaluated needle function and anatomy in Norway spruce families exposed to different light conditions. We measured tracheid and needle characteristics of sun-exposed and shaded current-year needles in two experimental plots: a control plot and a thinned plot with 50% reduction in stand density. Sun-exposed needles had a larger tracheid lumen area than shaded needles, and this was caused by a larger maximum tracheid lumen diameter, while the minimum lumen diameter was less plastic. Sun-exposed needles had also higher theoretical hydraulic conductivity than shaded needles. Thinning leads to increased radiation to the lower branches, and presumably exposes the upper branches to stronger water stress than before thinning. Thinning affected several needle parameters both in sun-exposed and shaded needles; tracheid lumens were more circular and minimum tracheid lumen diameter was larger in the thinned plot, whereas maximum tracheid lumen diameter was less plastic on both plots. This study demonstrates that needle xylem structure in Norway spruce is clearly influenced by the light gradient within the tree crown.