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Improvement to the air-injection technique to estimate xylem vulnerability to cavitation

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Several techniques have been developed to quantify the degree of embolism of the xylem using hydraulic conductance. Although there have been several improvements to these techniques, their reliability is still questionable and many technical pitfalls persist. We are proposing here a manometric approach to improve the accuracy of xylem cavitation measurement by the original air-injection technique which uses twigs exposed to pressurized air to cause cavitation. The measured parameter is air bubble production (P b) caused by xylem cavitation in birch (Betula pendula Roth) twigs from which the percent increase in bubble production is calculated to quantify xylem cavitation. Data produced by three different methods (bench-drying, air-injection, and manometric approach) are compared. Xylem vulnerability curves (VCs) constructed by the reference and reliable bench-drying technique and the manometric approach show similar sigmoid “S” shape, but a small anomaly appeared in the VC constructed by the original air-injection technique. The xylem pressure inducing 50% of embolism (P 50) was the same with the three techniques. Furthermore, there was a strong positive correlation between the estimators of xylem cavitation measured by the three different methods. For its reliability, precision and ease we recommend the manometric technique as an improved version of the original hydraulic air-injection method.

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M. Ennajeh visit to INRA-PIAF was supported with a postdoctoral scholarship from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF). We thank C. Bodet and P. Conchon for their technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Habib Khemira.

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Communicated by R. Matyssek.

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Ennajeh, M., Nouiri, M., Khemira, H. et al. Improvement to the air-injection technique to estimate xylem vulnerability to cavitation. Trees 25, 705–710 (2011).

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