, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 27–37 | Cite as

Comparative hydraulic architecture of tropical tree species representing a range of successional stages and wood density

  • Katherine A. McCullohEmail author
  • Frederick C. Meinzer
  • John S. Sperry
  • Barbara Lachenbruch
  • Steven L. Voelker
  • David R. Woodruff
  • Jean-Christophe Domec
Physiological ecology - Original Paper


Plant hydraulic architecture (PHA) has been linked to water transport sufficiency, photosynthetic rates, growth form and attendant carbon allocation. Despite its influence on traits central to conferring an overall competitive advantage in a given environment, few studies have examined whether key aspects of PHA are indicative of successional stage, especially within mature individuals. While it is well established that wood density (WD) tends to be lower in early versus late successional tree species, and that WD can influence other aspects of PHA, the interaction of WD, successional stage and the consequent implications for PHA have not been sufficiently explored. Here, we studied differences in PHA at the scales of wood anatomy to whole-tree hydraulic conductance in species in early versus late successional Panamanian tropical forests. Although the trunk WD was indistinguishable between the successional groups, the branch WD was lower in the early successional species. Across all species, WD correlated negatively with vessel diameter and positively with vessel packing density. The ratio of branch:trunk vessel diameter, branch sap flux and whole-tree leaf-specific conductance scaled negatively with branch WD across species. Pioneer species showed greater sap flux in branches than in trunks and a greater leaf-specific hydraulic conductance, suggesting that pioneer species can move greater quantities of water at a given tension gradient. In combination with the greater water storage capacitance associated with lower WD, these results suggest these pioneer species can save on the carbon expenditure needed to build safer xylem and instead allow more carbon to be allocated to rapid growth.


Whole-plant hydraulic conductance Wood anatomy Wood density Sap flux Vessel diameter 



This work was funded by National Science Foundation grants IBN 99-05012 to FCM, IBN 05-44470 to KAM, FCM, JSS and BL, and IBN 09-19871 to KAM, FCM and BL. The authors are grateful to Oris Acevado, Belkys Jimenez, and Melida Ruiz-Dick for logistical assistance on BCI; Mirna Samaniego, Edwin Andrade and José Herrera for canopy crane logistics and operation; and Paula Campanello, Genoveva Gatti, Lucas Cernusak, Tom Kursar, Mike Tobin, Jim Wheeler and Klaus Winter for field assistance or logistical support in Panama. KAM is also thankful to Bill Becker and Matt Peterson for assistance with the anatomical measurements in Oregon.


  1. Becker P, Tyree MT, Tsuda M (1999) Hydraulic conductances of angiosperms versus conifers: similar transport sufficiency at the whole-plant level. Tree Physiol 19:445–452PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bucci SJ, Goldstein G, Meinzer FC, Scholz FG, Franco AC, Bustamante M (2004a) Functional convergence in hydraulic architecture and water relations of tropical savanna trees: from leaf to whole plant. Tree Physiol 24:891–899PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bucci SJ, Scholz FG, Goldstein G, Meinzer FC, Hinojosa JA, Hoffman WA, Franco AC (2004b) Processes preventing nocturnal equilibration between leaf and soil water potential in tropical savanna woody species. Tree Physiol 24:1119–1127PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Chave J, Coomes D, Jansen S, Lewis SL, Swenson NG, Zanne AE (2009) Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum. Ecol Lett 12:351–366PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clearwater MJ, Meinzer FC, Andrade JL, Goldstein G, Holbrook NM (1999) Potential errors in measurement of nonuniform sap flow using heat dissipation probes. Tree Physiol 19:681–687PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Condit R, Hubbell SP, Foster RB (1995) Mortality rates of 205 Neotropical tree and shrub species and the impact of a severe drought. Ecol Mono 65:419–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Domec J-C, Gartner BL (2003) Relationship between growth rates and xylem hydraulic characteristics in young, mature and old-growth ponderosa pine trees. Plant Cell Environ 26:471–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Domec J-C, Warren JM, Meinzer FC, Lachenbruch B (2009) Safety factors for xylem failure by implosion and air-seeding within roots, trunks and branches of young and old conifer trees. IAWA 30:101–120Google Scholar
  9. Enquist BJ, West GB, Charnov EL, Brown JH (1999) Allometric scaling of production and life-history variation in vascular plants. Nature 401:907–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Foster RB, Brokaw NVL (1990) Estructura e historia de la vegetación de la isla de Barro Colorado. In: Leigh EG, Rand AS, Windsor DM (eds) Ecología de un Bosque Tropical. Ciclos estacionales y cambios a largo plazo. Smithsonian Press, Washington, DC, pp 113–127Google Scholar
  11. Gartner BL, Lei H, Milota MR (1997) Variation in the anatomy and specific gravity of wood within and between trees of red alder (Alnus rubra Bong.). Wood Fiber Sci 29:10–20Google Scholar
  12. Gonzalez-Benecke CA, Martin TA, Peter GF (2010) Hydraulic architecture and tracheid allometry in mature Pinus palustris and Pinus elliottii trees. Tree Physiol 30:361–375PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Granier A (1985) Une nouvelle méthode pour la mesure du flux de sève brute dans le tronc des arbres. Ann Sci For 42:193–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hacke UG, Sperry JS, Pittermann J (2000) Drought experience and cavitation resistance in six shrubs from the Great Basin, Utah. Basic Appl Ecol 1:31–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hacke UG, Sperry JS, Pockman WT, Davis SD, McCulloh KA (2001) Trends in wood density and structure are linked to prevention of xylem implosion by negative pressure. Oecologia 126:457–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hacke UG, Jacobsen AL, Pratt RB (2009) Xylem function of arid-land shrubs from California, USA: an ecological and evolutionary analysis. Plant Cell Environ 32:1324–1333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hubbard RM, Ryan MG, Stiller V, Sperry JS (2001) Stomatal conductance and photosynthesis vary linearly with plant hydraulic conductance in ponderosa pine. Plant Cell Environ 24:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. James SA, Clearwater MJ, Meinzer FC, Goldstein G (2002) Variable length heat dissipation sensors for the measurement of sap flow in trees with deep sapwood. Tree Physiol 22:277–283PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. King DA, Davies SJ, Nur Supardi MN, Tan S (2005) Tree growth is related to light interception and wood density in two mixed dipterocarp forests of Malaysia. Funct Ecol 19:445–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kobe RK, Pacala SW, Silander JA, Canham CD (1995) Juvenile tree survivorship as a component of shade tolerance. Ecol Appl 5(2):517–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lei H, Milota MR, Gartner BL (1996) Between- and within-tree variation in the anatomy and specific gravity of wood in Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana Dougl). IAWA 17:445–461Google Scholar
  22. Lei H, Gartner BL, Milota MR (1997) Effect of growth rate on the anatomy, specific gravity, and bending properties of wood from 7-year-old red alder (Alnus rubra). Can J For Res 27:80–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lovelock CE, Feller IC, McKee KL, Engelbrecht BMJ, Ball MC (2004) The effect of nutrient enrichment on growth, photosynthesis and hydraulic conductance of dwarf mangroves in Panama. Funct Ecol 18:25–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Machado J-L, Tyree MT (1994) Patterns of hydraulic architecture and water relations of two tropical canopy trees with contrasting leaf phenologies. Tree Physiol 14:219–240PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. McCulloh KA, Sperry JS (2005) Patterns in hydraulic architecture and their implications for transport efficiency. Tree Physiol 25:257–267PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. McCulloh KA, Winter K, Meinzer FC, Garcia M, Aranda J, Lachenbruch B (2007) A comparison of daily water use estimates derived from constant-heat sap-flow probe values and gravimetric measurements in pot-grown saplings. Tree Physiol 27:1355–1360PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. McCulloh KA, Sperry JS, Lachenbruch B, Meinzer FC, Reich PB, Voelker S (2010) Moving water well: comparing hydraulic efficiency in twigs and trunks of coniferous, ring-porous and diffuse-porous saplings from temperate and tropical forests. New Phytol 186:439–450PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Meinzer FC, Grantz DA (1990) Stomatal and hydraulic conductance in growing sugarcane: stomatal adjustment to water transport capacity. Plant Cell Environ 13:383–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Meinzer FC, Goldstein G, Jackson PJ, Holbrook NM, Gutierrez MV (1995) Environmental and physiological regulation of transpiration in tropical forest gap species: the influence of boundary layer and hydraulic properties. Oecologia 101:514–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meinzer FC, James SA, Goldstein G, Woodruff D (2003) Whole-tree water transport scales with sapwood capacitance in tropical forest canopy trees. Plant Cell Environ 26:1147–1155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Meinzer FC, Campanello PI, Domec J-C, Gatti MG, Goldstein G, Villalobos-Vega R, Woodruff DR (2008) Constraints on physiological function associated with branch architecture and wood density in tropical forest trees. Tree Physiol 28:1609–1617PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Meinzer FC, Johnson DM, Lachenbruch B, McCulloh KA, Woodruff DR (2009) Xylem hydraulic safety margins in woody plants: coordination of stomatal control of xylem tension with hydraulic capacitance. Funct Ecol 23:922–930CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meinzer FC, McCulloh KA, Lachenbruch B, Woodruff DR, Johnson DM (2010) The blind men and the elephant: the impact of context and scale in evaluating conflicts between plant hydraulic safety and efficiency. Oecologia. doi: 10.1007/s00442-010-1734-x
  34. Muller-Landau HC (2004) Interspecific and intersite variation in wood specific gravity of tropical trees. Biotropica 36:20–32Google Scholar
  35. Oliver CD, Larson BC (1996) Forest stand dynamics: update edition. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Phillips N, Bond BJ, Ryan MG (2001) Interaction of hydraulic properties and gas exchange in tree crowns in a Panamanian moist forest. Trees 15(2):123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Poorter L, Wright SJ, Paz H, Ackerly DD, Condit R, Ibarra-Manriquez G, Harms KE, Licona JC, Martinez-Ramos M, Mazer SJ, Muller-Landau HC, Peña-Claros M, Webb CO, Wright IJ (2008) Are functional traits good predictors of demographis rates? Evidence from five neotropical forests. Ecology 89(7):1908–1920PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Poorter L, McDonald I, Alarcón A, Fichtler E, Licona J-C, Peña-Claros M, Sterck F, Villegas Z, Sass-Klaassen U (2010) The importance of wood traits and hydraulic conductance for the performance and life history strategies of 42 rainforest tree species. New Phytol 185:481–492PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pratt RB, Jacobsen AL, Ewers FW, Davis SD (2007) Relationships among xylem transport, biomechanics and storage in stems and roots of nine Rhamnaceae species of the California chaparral. New Phytol 174:787–798PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Russo SE, Jenkins KL, Wiser SK, Uriarte M, Duncan RP, Coomes DA (2010) Interspecific relationships among growth, mortality and xylem traits of woody species from New Zealand. Funct Ecol 24:253–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Santiago LS, Goldstein G, Meinzer FC, Fisher JB, Machado K, Woodruff D, Jones T (2004) Leaf photosynthetic traits scale with hydraulic conductivity and wood density in Panamanian forest canopy trees. Oecologia 140:543–550PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Scholz FG, Bucci SJ, Goldstein G, Meinzer FC, Franco AC, Miralles-Wilhelm F (2007) Biophysical properties and functional significance of stem water storage tissues in neotropical savanna trees. Plant Cell Environ 30:236–248PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shirley HL (1945) Reproduction of upland conifers in the lake states as affected by root competition and light. Am Midl Nat 33(3):537–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sobrado MA (2003) Hydraulic characteristics and leaf water use efficiency in trees from tropical montane habitats. Trees 17:400–406Google Scholar
  45. Sperry JS, Pockman WT (1993) Limitation of transpiration by hydraulic conductance and xylem cavitation in Betula occidentalis. Plant Cell Environ 16:279–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tyree MT (2003) Hydraulic limits on tree performance: transpiration, carbon gain and growth of trees. Trees 17:95–100Google Scholar
  47. Tyree MT, Velez V, Dalling JW (1998) Growth dynamics of root and shoot hydraulic conductance in seedlings of five neotropical tree species: scaling to show possible adaption to differing light regimes. Oecologia 114:293–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang JR (2005) Spring and summer hydraulic conductivity of 14 woody species of the sub-boreal forest in British Columbia. Can J For Res 35:2727–2733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Warton DI, Wright IJ, Falster D, Westoby M (2006) Bivariate line-fitting methods for allometry. Biol Rev 81:259–291Google Scholar
  50. Zhang J-L, Cao K-F (2009) Stem hydraulics mediates leaf water status, carbon gain, nutrient use efficiencies and plant growth rates across dipterocarp species. Funct Ecol 23:658–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zobel BJ, van Buijtenen JP (1989) Wood variation: its causes and control. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  52. Zotz G, Tyree MT, Patińo S, Carlton MR (1998) Hydraulic architecture and water use of selected species from a lower montane forest in Panama. Trees 12:302–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine A. McCulloh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frederick C. Meinzer
    • 2
  • John S. Sperry
    • 3
  • Barbara Lachenbruch
    • 1
  • Steven L. Voelker
    • 1
  • David R. Woodruff
    • 2
  • Jean-Christophe Domec
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Wood Science and EngineeringOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.PNW Research Station, Forestry Sciences LaboratoryUSDA Forest ServiceCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.ENITA de Bordeaux, UMR TCEMGradignan CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations