An inconvenient truth about xylem resistance to embolism in the model species for refilling Laurus nobilis L.
Direct, non-invasive X-ray microtomography and optical technique observations applied in stems and leaves of intact seedlings revealed that laurel is highly resistant to drought-induced xylem embolism. Contrary to what has been brought forward, daily cycles of embolism formation and refilling are unlikely to occur in this species and to explain how it copes with drought.
There has been considerable controversy regarding xylem embolism resistance for long-vesselled angiosperm species and particularly for the model species for refilling (Laurus nobilis L.).
The purpose of this study was to resolve the hydraulic properties of this species by documenting vulnerability curves of different organs in intact plants.
Here, we applied a direct, non-invasive method to visualize xylem embolism in stems and leaves of intact laurel seedlings up to 2-m tall using X-ray microtomography (microCT) observations and the optical vulnerability technique. These approaches were coupled with complementary centrifugation measurements performed on 1-m long branches sampled from adult trees and compared with additional microCT analyses carried out on 80-cm cut branches.
Direct observations of embolism spread during desiccation of intact laurels revealed that 50% loss of xylem conductivity (Ψ50) was reached at − 7.9 ± 0.5 and − 8.4 ± 0.3 MPa in stems and leaves, respectively, while the minimum xylem water potentials measured in the field were − 4.2 MPa during a moderate drought season. Those findings reveal that embolism formation is not routine in Laurus nobilis contrary to what has been previously reported. These Ψ50 values were close to those based on the flow-centrifuge technique (− 9.2 ± 0.2 MPa), but at odds with microCT observations of cut branches (− 4.0 ± 0.5 MPa).
In summary, independent methods converge toward the same conclusion that laurel is highly resistant to xylem embolism regardless its development stage. Under typical growth conditions without extreme drought events, this species maintains positive hydraulic safety margin, while daily cycles of embolism formation and refilling are unlikely to occur in this species.
KeywordsXylem embolism Drought resistance Laurel Refilling Hydraulics Desiccation
We thank the PSICHE beamline (SOLEIL synchrotron facility, project 20150954) as well as the Experimental Unit of Pierroton (UE 0570, INRA, 69 route d’Arcachon, 33612 CESTAS, France) for providing the plant material.
L.J.L. was granted a fellowship (UB101 CR1024-R s/CR1024-6M) from the IdEx Bordeaux International Post-doctoral Program. This work was supported by the program “Investments for the Future” (ANR-10-EQPX-16, XYLOFOREST) from the 49 French National Agency for Research and the T4F grant n° 284181 “Trees4Future” (“Non-invasive measurements of drought stress in trees”), which made microtomography at UGCT possible. B.C. was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT130101115) and travel funding from the International Synchrotron Access Program (ISAP) managed by the Australian Synchrotron.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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