, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 19–33 | Cite as

Sap flow of the southern conifer, Agathis australis during wet and dry summers

  • Cate Macinnis-Ng
  • Sarah Wyse
  • Andrew Veale
  • Luitgard Schwendenmann
  • Mike Clearwater
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Long Distance Transport: Phloem and Xylem


Key message

Analysis of sap flux density during drought suggests that the large sapwood and rooting volumes of larger trees provide a buffer against drying soil.


The southern conifer Agathis australis is amongst the largest and longest-lived trees in the world. We measured sap flux densities (F d) in kauri trees with a DBH range of 20–176 cm to explore differences in responses of trees of different sizes to seasonal conditions and summer drought. F d was consistently higher in larger trees than smaller trees. Peak F d was 20 and 8 g m−2 s−1 for trees of diameters of 176 and 20 cm, respectively, during the wet summer. Multiple regression analysis revealed photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and vapour pressure deficit (D) were the main drivers of F d. During drought, larger trees were more responsive to D whilst smaller trees were more responsive to soil drying. Our largest tree had a sapwood area of 3,600 cm2. Preliminary analysis suggests stem water storage provides a buffer against drying soil in larger trees. Furthermore, F d of smaller trees had higher R 2 values for soil moisture at 30 and 60 cm depth than soil moisture at 10 cm depth (R 2 = 0.68–0.97 and 0.55–0.67, respectively) suggesting that deeper soil moisture is more important for these trees. Larger trees did not show a relationship between F d and soil moisture, suggesting they were accessing soil water deeper than 60 cm. These results suggest that larger trees may be better prepared for increasing frequency and intensity of summer droughts due to deeper roots and/or larger stem water storage capacity.


Sap flow Plant water storage New Zealand Kauri Large trees Soil moisture 


Author contribution statement

CM, MC and LS designed the experiments. MC designed and constructed the sap flow sensors. CM and SW did the statistical analysis and produced the figures with AV. All authors contributed to fieldwork and manuscript preparation.


We thank the following students and interns for assistance in the field: Chris Goodwin, Malani Sundaram, Andrew Wheeler, Tristan Webb, Roland Lafaele-Pereira. We acknowledge technical support from Colin Monk, David Wackrow, Brendan Hall, David Jenkinson and Colin Yong. Thanks Ian and Angela Knightbridge for hosting our weather station on their land and Freddie Hjelm and his team of climbers for climbing the trees. This project was supported by a grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund (UOA1207) to CM and a Faculty Research Development Fund Grant from the University of Auckland to LS and CM.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Ahmed M, Ogden J (1987) Population dynamics of the emergent conifer Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl. (kauri) in New Zealand. 1. Population structures and tree growth rates in mature stands. NZ J Bot 25:217–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allan HH (1961) Flora of New Zealand. Owen, Govt Printer, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  3. Bieleski RL (1959) Factors affecting growth and distribution of kauri (Agathis australis Salisb.). Aust J Bot 7:252–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bucci S, Scholz F, Goldstein G, Hoffmann W, Meinzer F, Franco A, Giambelluca T, Miralles-Wilhelm F (2008) Controls on stand transpiration and soil water utilisation along a tree density gradient in a neotropical savanna. Agric For Meteorol 148:839–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns B, Smale M (1990) Changes in structure and composition over fifteen years in a secondary kauri (Agathis australis)-tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) forest stand, Coromandel Peninsula New Zealand. New Zeal J Bot 28:141–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Choat B, Jansen S, Brodribb T, Cochard H, Delzon S, Bhaskar R, Bucci S, Field T, Gleason S, Hacke U, Jacobsen A, Lens F, Maherali H, Martinez-Vilalta J, Mayr S, Mencuccini M, Mitchell P, Nardini A, Pittermann J, Pratt R, Sperry J, Westoby M, Wright I, Zanne A (2012) Global convergence in the vulnerability of forests to drought. Nature 491:752–755PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Ecroyd CE (1982) Biological flora of New Zealand. 8. Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl. (Araucariaceae) kauri. New Zeal J Bot 20:17–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ford CR, Goranson CE, Mitchell RJ, Will RE, Teskey RO (2004) Diurnal and seasonal variability in the radial distribution of sap flow: predicting total stem flow in Pinus taeda trees. Tree Physiol 24:941–950CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Ford C, Hubbard R, Vose J (2011) Quantifying structural and physiological controls on variation in canopy transpiration among planted pine and hardwood species in the southern Appalachians. Ecohydrology 4:183–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fowler A (2008) ENSO history recorded in Agathis australis (kauri) tree rings. Part B: 423 years of ENSO robustness. Internat J Climatol 28:21–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fowler A, Boswijk G, Gergis J, Lorrey A (2008) ENSO history recorded in Agathis australis (kauri) tree rings. Part A: kauri’s potential as an ENSO proxy. Internat J Climatol 28:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldstein G, Andrade J, Meinzer F, Holbrook N, Cavalier J, Jackson P, Celis A (1998) Stem water storage and diurnal patterns of water use in tropical forest canopy trees. Plant, Cell Environ 21:397–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Granier A (1985) Une nouvelle methode pour la mesure du flux deseve brute dans le tronc des arbres. Ann Sci For 42:193–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Holbrook M (1995) Stem water storage. In: Gartner B (ed) Plant stems: physiology and functional morphology. Academic, San Diego, pp 151–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Stockholm, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  16. James S, Clearwater MJ, Meinzer FC, Goldstein G (2002) Heat dissipation sensors of variable length for the measurement of sap flow in trees of deep sapwood. Tree Physiol 22:277–283CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Jarvis PG (1976) The interpretation of the variations in leaf water potential and stomatal conductance found in canopies in the field. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 273:593–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Katul G, Todd P, Pataki D, Kabala Z, Oren R (1997) Soil water depletion by oak trees and the influence of root water on the moisture content spatial statistics. Water Resourc Resear 33:611–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelliher F, Köstner B, Hollinger D, Byers J, Hunt J, McSeveny T, Meserth R, Weir P, Schulze E (1992) Evaporation, xylem sap flow and tree transpiration in a New Zealand broad leaf forest. Ag For Met 62:53–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Macinnis-Ng C, Schwendenmann L (2015) Litterfall, carbon and nitrogen cycling in a southern hemisphere conifer forest dominated by kauri (Agathis australis) during drought. Plant Ecol 216:247–262Google Scholar
  21. Macinnis-Ng C, Schwendenmann L, Clearwater M (2013) Radial varation of sap flow of kauri (Agathis australis) during wet and dry summers. Acta Hort 991:205–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Martínez-Vilalta J, Mangirón M, Ogaya R, Sauret M, Serrano L, Peñuelas J, Piñol J (2003) Sap flow of three co-occurring Mediterranean woody species under varying atmospheric and soil water conditions. Tree Physiol 23:747–758CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. McDowell N, Pockman W, Allen C, Breshears D, Cobb N, Kolb T, Plaut J, Sperry J, West A, Williams D, Yepez E (2008) Mechanisms of plant survival and mortality during drought: why do some plants survive while others succumb to drought? New Phytol 178:719–739CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. McGlone M, Richardson S, Jordan G (2010) Comparative biogeography of New Zealand trees: species richness, height, leaf traits and range sizes. New Zeal J Ecol 34:137–151Google Scholar
  25. Meason DF, Mason WL (2013) Evaluating the deployment of alternative species in planted conifer forests as a means of adaptation to climate change—case studies in New Zealand and Scotland. Annals For Sci. doi: 10.1007/s13595-013-0300-1 Google Scholar
  26. Meinzer FC, Golstein G, Andrade JL (2001) Regulation of water flux through forest canopy trees: do universal rules apply? Tree Physiol 21:19–26CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Meinzer F, James S, Goldstein G (2004) Dynamics of transpiration, sap flow and use of stored water in tropical forest trees. Tree Physiol 24:901–909CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Meinzer F, Woodruff D, Eissenstat D, Lin H, Adams T, McCulloh (2013) Above- and belowground controls on water use by trees of different wood types in an eastern US deciduous forest. Tree Physiol 33:345–356CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Mullan B, Porteous A, Wratt D, Hollis M (2005) Changes in drought risk with climate change. National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd., Wellington 68Google Scholar
  30. NIWA (2013) In brief: dry run. Published June 2013, accessed 5th March 2014
  31. O’Grady A, Eamus D, Cook PG (2006) Comparative water use by the riparian trees Melaleuca argentea and Corymbia bella in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia. Tree Physiol 26:219–228CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Ogden J, Wilson A, Hendy C, Newnham R (1992) The late Quaternary history of kauri (Agathis australis) in NZ. J Biogeog 19:611–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Oren R, Pataki D (2001) Transpiration in response to variation in microclimate and soil moisture in southeastern deciduous forests. Oecologia 127:549–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Oren R, Phillips N, Ewers B, Pataki D, Megonigal J (1999) Sap-flux-scaled transpiration responses to light, vapour pressure deficit, and leaf are reduction in a flooded Taxodium distichum forest. Tree Physiol 19:337–347CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Pfautsch S, Adams M (2013) Water flux of Eucalyptus regnans: defying summer drought and a record heatwave in 2009. Oecologia 172:317–326CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Phillips N, Oren R (1998) A comparison of representations of canopy conductance based on two conditional time-averaging methods and the dependence of daily conductance on environmental factors. Ann Sci For 55:217–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Phillips N, Bond B, McDowell N, Ryan M (2002) Canopy and hydraulic conductance in young, mature and old Douglas-fir trees. Tree Physiol 22:205–211CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Pineda-García F, Horacio P, Meinzer F (2013) Drought resistance in early and late secondary successional species from a tropical dry forest: the interplay between xylem resistance to embolism, sapwood water storage and leaf shedding. Plant, Cell Environ 36:405–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pittermann J, Sperry J, Hacke U, Wheeler J, Sikkema E (2006) Inter-tracheid pitting and the hydraulic efficiency of conifer wood: the role of tracheid allometry and cavitation protection. Am J Bot 93:1265–1273CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. R Development Core Team (ed) (2011) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  42. Saveyn A, Steppe K, Lemeur R (2008) Spatial variability of xylem sap flow in mature beech (Fagus sylvatica) and its diurnal dynamics in relation to microclimate. Botany 86:1440–1448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Scholz F, Phillips N, Bucci S, Meinzer F, Golstein G (2011) Hydraulic capacitance: biophysics and functional significance of internal water sources in relation to tree size. In: Meinzer (ed) Size- and age-related changes in tree structure and function. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 341–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schulz ED, Čermák J, Matyssek R, Penka M, Zimmermann R, Vasícek F, Gries W, Kučera J (1985) Canopy transpiration and water fluxes in the xylem of the trunk of Larix and Picea trees—a comparason of xylem flow, porometer and cuvette measurements. Oecologia 66:475–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Silvester WB (2000) The biology of kauri (Agathis australis) in New Zealand II. Nitrogen cycling in four kauri forest remnants. New Zeal J Bot 38:205–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Silvester WB, Orchard TA (1999) The biology of kauri (Agathis australis) in New Zealand. I. Production, biomass, carbon storage, and litter fall in four forest remnants. New Zeal J Bot 37:553–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sterck F, Bongers F (2001) Crown development in tropical rainforest trees: patterns with tree height and light availability. J Ecol 89:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stephens DW, Silvester WB, Burns BR (1999) Differences in water-use efficiency between Agathis australis and Dacrydioides are genetically, not environmentally determined. New Zeal J Bot 37:361–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Steward G, Beveridge A (2010) A review of NZ kauri (Agathis australis (D.Don) Lindl.): its ecology, history, growth & potential for management for timber. New Zeal J For Sci 40:33–59Google Scholar
  50. Stöhr A, Lösch R (2004) Xylem sap flow and drought stress of Fraxinus excelsior saplings. Tree Physiol 24:169–180CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Thomas G, Ogden J (1983) The scientific reserves of Auckland University I. General introduction to their history, vegetation, climate and soils. Tane 29:143–161Google Scholar
  52. Vergeynst LL, Dierick M, Bogaerts J, Cnudde V, Steppe K (2015) Cavitation: a blessing in disguise? New method to establish vulnerability curves and assess hydraulic capacitance of woody tissue. Tree Physiology. (in press)
  53. Verkaik E, Jongkind AG, Berendse F (2006) Short-term and long-term effects of tannins on nitrogen mineralisation and litter decomposition in kauri (Agathis australis (D. Don) Lindl.) forests. Plant Soil 287:337–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Verkaik E, Gardner R, Braakhekke W (2007) Site conditions affect seedling distribution below & outside the crown of kauri trees (Agathis australis). New Zeal J Ecol 31:13–21Google Scholar
  55. Wardle P (2002) Vegetation of New Zealand. The Blackburn Press, Caldwell New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  56. Whitley R, Zeppel M, Armstrong N, Macinnis-Ng C, Yunusa I, Eamus D (2008) A modified Jarvis-Stewart model for predicting stand-scale transpiration of an Australian native forest. Plant Soil 305:35–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Whitley R, Macinnis-Ng C, Zeppel M, Williams M, Hutley L, Berringer J, Eamus D (2011) Modelling productivity and water use across five years in a mixed C3 and C4 savanna using a soil-plant-atmosphere model: GPP is light limited, not water limited. Glob Change Biol 17:3130–3149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Whitley R, Taylor D, Macinnis-Ng C, Zeppel M, Yunusa I, O’Grady A, Froend R, Medlyn B, Eamus D (2013) Developing an empirical model of canopy water flux describing the common response of transpiration to solar radiation and VPD across five contrasting woodlands and forests. Hydrol Process 27:1133–1146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wullschleger S, Wilson K, Hanson P (2000) Environmental control of whole-plant transpiration, canopy conductance and estimates of the decoupling coefficient for large red maple trees. Ag For Met 104:157–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wunder J, Perry G, McCloskey S (2010) Structure and composition of a mature kauri (Agathis australis) stand at Huapai Scientific Reserve, Waitakere Range New Zealand. Tree-Ring site report No. 33. University of Auckland School of Environment Working Paper No. 39Google Scholar
  61. Wunder J, Fowler A, Cook E, Pirie M, McCloskey S (2013) On the influence of tree size on the climate-growth relationship of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis): insights from annual, monthly and daily growth patterns. Trees. doi: 10.1007/s00468-013-0846-4 Google Scholar
  62. Wyse SV, Burns BR (2013) Effects of Agathis australis (New Zealand kauri) leaf litter on germination and seedling growth differs among plant species. New Zeal J Ecol 37:178–183Google Scholar
  63. Wyse SV, Burns BR, Wright SD (2013a) Distinctive vegetation communities are associated with the long-lived conifer Agathis australis (New Zealand kauri, Araucariaceae) in New Zealand rainforests. Austral Ecol 39:388–400. doi: 10.1111/aec.12089 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wyse SV, Macinnis-Ng CMO, Burns BR, Clearwater MJ, Schwendenmann L (2013b) Species assemblage patterns around a dominant emergent tree are associated with drought resistance. Tree Physiol 33:1269–1283CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Zeppel MJB (2013) Convergence of tree water use and hydraulic architecture in water-limited regions: a review and synthesis. Ecohydrol 6:889–900Google Scholar
  66. Zeppel MJB, Eamus D (2008) Coordination of leaf area, sapwood area and canopy conductance leads to species convergence of tree water use. Aust J Bot 56:97–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zeppel MJB, Macinnis-Ng CMO, Yunusa IAM, Armstrong N, Whitley R, Eamus D (2008) Long term trends of stand transpiration in a remnant forest during wet and dry years. J Hydrol 349:200–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cate Macinnis-Ng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sarah Wyse
    • 2
  • Andrew Veale
    • 2
  • Luitgard Schwendenmann
    • 1
  • Mike Clearwater
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Faculty of Science and EngineeringUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations