In the stems of terrestrial vascular plants studied to date, the diameter of xylem water-conducting conduits D widens predictably with distance from the stem tip L approximating D ∝ Lb, with b ≈ 0.2. Because conduit diameter is central for conductance, it is essential to understand the cause of this remarkably pervasive pattern. We give reason to suspect that tip-to-base conduit widening is an adaptation, favored by natural selection because widening helps minimize the increase in hydraulic resistance that would otherwise occur as an individual stem grows longer and conductive path length increases. Evidence consistent with adaptation includes optimality models that predict the 0.2 exponent. The fact that this prediction can be made with a simple model of a single capillary, omitting much biological detail, itself makes numerous important predictions, e.g. that pit resistance must scale isometrically with conduit resistance. The idea that tip-to-base conduit widening has a nonadaptive cause, with temperature, drought, or turgor limiting the conduit diameters that plants are able to produce, is less consistent with the data than an adaptive explanation. We identify empirical priorities for testing the cause of tip-to-base conduit widening and underscore the need to study plant hydraulic systems leaf to root as integrated wholes.

Tip-to-base xylem conduit widening as an adaptation: causes, consequences, and empirical priorities

Olson M. E.;Anfodillo T.;
2021

Abstract

In the stems of terrestrial vascular plants studied to date, the diameter of xylem water-conducting conduits D widens predictably with distance from the stem tip L approximating D ∝ Lb, with b ≈ 0.2. Because conduit diameter is central for conductance, it is essential to understand the cause of this remarkably pervasive pattern. We give reason to suspect that tip-to-base conduit widening is an adaptation, favored by natural selection because widening helps minimize the increase in hydraulic resistance that would otherwise occur as an individual stem grows longer and conductive path length increases. Evidence consistent with adaptation includes optimality models that predict the 0.2 exponent. The fact that this prediction can be made with a simple model of a single capillary, omitting much biological detail, itself makes numerous important predictions, e.g. that pit resistance must scale isometrically with conduit resistance. The idea that tip-to-base conduit widening has a nonadaptive cause, with temperature, drought, or turgor limiting the conduit diameters that plants are able to produce, is less consistent with the data than an adaptive explanation. We identify empirical priorities for testing the cause of tip-to-base conduit widening and underscore the need to study plant hydraulic systems leaf to root as integrated wholes.
2021
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3388140
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