Stem segments of eight five-year-old Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) clones differing in growth characteristics were tested for maximum specific hydraulic conductivity (ks100), vulnerability to cavitation and behavior under mechanical stress. The vulnerability of the clones to cavitation was assessed by measuring the applied air pressure required to cause 12 and 50% loss of conductivity (Ψ12, Ψ50) and the percent loss of conductivity at 4 MPa applied air pressure (PLC4MPa). The bending strength and stiffness and the axial compression strength and stiffness of the same stem segments were measured to characterize wood mechanical properties. Growth ring width, wood density, latewood percentage, lumen diameter, cell wall thickness, tracheid length and pit dimensions of earlywood cells, spiral grain and microfibril angles were examined to identify structure–function relationships. High ks100 was strongly and positively related to spiral grain angle, which corresponded positively to tracheid length and pit dimensions. Spiral grain may reduce flow resistance of the bordered pits of the first earlywood tracheids, which are characterized by rounded tips and an equal distribution of pits along the entire length. Wood density was unrelated to hydraulic vulnerability parameters. Traits associated with higher hydraulic vulnerability were long tracheids, high latewood percentage and thick earlywood cell walls. The positive relationship between earlywood cell wall thickness and vulnerability to cavitation suggest that air seeding through the margo of bordered pits may occur in earlywood. There was a positive phenotypic and genotypic relationship between ks100 and PLC4MPa, and both parameters were positively related to tree growth rate. Variability in mechanical properties depended mostly on wood density, but also on the amount of compression wood. Accordingly, hydraulic conductivity and mechanical strength or stiffness showed no tradeoff.
biomechanics; functional anatomy; hydraulic conductivity; Picea abies; tradeoffs; vulnerability to cavitation
Background and Aims
Cambial reactivation in trees occurs from late winter to early spring when photosynthesis is minimal or almost non-existent. Reserve materials might be important for wood formation in trees. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules in cambium and phloem were examined from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in locally heated stems of Cryptomeria japonica trees in winter.
Electric heating tape was wrapped on one side of the stem of Cryptomeria japonica trees at breast height in winter. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules were determined by image analysis of optical digital images obtained by confocal laser scanning microscopy.
Localized heating induced earlier cambial reactivation and xylem differentiation in stems of Cryptomeria japonica, as compared with non-heated stems. There were clear changes in the respective localizations and levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) determined in terms of relative areas on images, from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems. In heated stems, the levels and number of starch granules fell from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation. There was a significant decrease in the relative area occupied by lipid droplets in the cambium from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems.
The results showed clearly that the levels and number of storage starch granules in cambium and phloem cells and levels of lipids (as droplets) in the cambium decreased from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems during the winter. The observations suggest that starch and lipid droplets might be needed as sources of energy for the initiation of cambial cell division and the differentiation of xylem in Cryptomeria japonica.
Cambial reactivation; confocal laser scanning microscopy; Cryptomeria japonica; lipid; starch; xylem differentiation
Ultrasonic emission (UE) testing is used to analyse the vulnerability of xylem to embolism, but the number of UEs often does not sufficiently reflect effects on hydraulic conductivity. We monitored the absolute energy of UE signals in dehydrating xylem samples hypothesizing that (i) conduit diameter is correlated with UE energy and (ii) monitoring of UE energy may enhance the utility of this technique for analysis of xylem vulnerability. Split xylem samples were prepared from trunk wood of Picea abies, and four categories of samples, derived from mature (I: earlywood, II: 30–50% latewood, III: >50% latewood) or juvenile wood (IV: earlywood) were used. Ultrasonic emissions during dehydration were registered and anatomical parameters (tracheid lumen area, number per area) were analysed from cross-sections. Attenuation of UE energy was measured on a dehydrating wood beam by repeated lead breaks. Vulnerability to drought-induced embolism was analysed on dehydrating branches by hydraulic, UE number or UE energy measurements. In split samples, the cumulative number of UEs increased linearly with the number of tracheids per cross-section, and UE energy was positively correlated with the mean lumen area. Ultrasonic emission energies of earlywood samples (I and IV), which showed normally distributed tracheid lumen areas, increased during dehydration, whereas samples with latewood (II and III) exhibited a right-skewed distribution of lumina and UE energies. Ultrasonic emission energy was hardly influenced by moisture content until ~40% moisture loss, and decreased exponentially thereafter. Dehydrating branches showed a 50% loss of conductivity at −3.6 MPa in hydraulic measurements and at −3.9 and −3.5 MPa in UE analysis based on cumulative number or energy of signals, respectively. Ultrasonic emission energy emitted by cavitating conduits is determined by the xylem water potential and by the size of element. Energy patterns during dehydration are thus influenced by the vulnerability to cavitation, conduit size distribution as well as attenuation properties. Measurements of UE energy may be used as an alternative to the number of UEs in vulnerability analysis.
earlywood; latewood; Picea abies; signal energy; tracheid dimension; ultrasonic emission; vulnerability to xylem embolism
In Norway spruce, a fungistatic reaction zone with a high pH and enrichment of phenolics is formed in the sapwood facing heartwood colonized by the white-rot fungus Heterobasidion parviporum. Fungal penetration of the reaction zone eventually results in expansion of this xylem defense. To obtain information about mechanisms operating upon heartwood and reaction zone colonization by the pathogen, hyphal growth and wood degradation were investigated using real-time PCR, microscopy, and comparative wood density analysis of naturally colonized trees with extensive stem decay. The hyphae associated with delignified wood at stump level were devoid of any extracellular matrix, whereas incipient decay at the top of decay columns was characterized by a carbohydrate-rich hyphal sheath attaching hyphae to tracheid walls. The amount of pathogen DNA peaked in aniline wood, a narrow darkened tissue at the colony border apparently representing a compromised region of the reaction zone. Vigorous production of pathogen conidiophores occurred in this region. Colonization of aniline wood was characterized by hyphal growth within polyphenolic lumen deposits in tracheids and rays, and the hyphae were fully encased in a carbohydrate-rich extracellular matrix. Together, these data indicate that the interaction of the fungus with the reaction zone involves a local concentration of fungal biomass that forms an efficient translocation channel for nutrients. Finally, the enhanced production of the hyphal sheath may be instrumental in lateral expansion of the decay column beyond the reaction zone boundary.
The aim of this study was to observe the radial shrinkage of Norway spruce [Picea abies (L. Karst.)] trunkwood specimens with different hydraulic vulnerability to cavitation from the fully saturated state until the overall shrinkage reaches a stable value, and to relate wood shrinkage and recovery from shrinkage to cavitations of the water column inside the tracheids. Radial shrinkage processes in standard-size sapwood specimens (6 mm × 6 mm × 100 mm; radial, tangential and longitudinal) obtained at different positions within the trunk, representing different ages of the cambium, were compared. Cavitation events were assessed by acoustic emission (AE) testing, hydraulic vulnerability by the AE feature analysis and shrinkage was calculated from the changes in contact pressure between the 150 kHz AE transducer and the wood specimen. Two shrinkage processes were observed in both juvenile (annual rings 1 and 2) and mature wood (annual rings 17–19), the first one termed tension shrinkage and the second one cell wall shrinkage process, which started when most of the tracheids reached relative water contents below fiber saturation. Maximum tension shrinkage coincided with high-energy AEs, and the periods of shrinkage recovery could be traced to tension release due to cavitation. Juvenile wood, which was less sensitive to cavitation, had lower earlywood tracheid diameters and was less prone to deformation due to tensile strain than mature wood, showed a lower cell wall shrinkage, and thus total shrinkage. Earlywood lumen diameters and maximum tension shrinkage were strongly positively related to each other, meaning that bigger tracheids are more prone to deformation at the same water tension than the smaller tracheids.
acoustic emission testing; conduit reinforcement; tensile strain; wood shrinkage
Acoustic emission (AE) and radial shrinkage were compared between fully saturated fresh and pre-dried Norway spruce sapwood during dehydration at ambient temperature. Hydraulic conductivity measurements, anatomical investigations on bordered pits and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans were done to search for possible AE sources other than the breakage of the water columns inside the tracheids. Both fresh and pre-dried specimens showed radial shrinkage due to drying surface layers right from the beginning of dehydration, which induced almost no AE. Whereas no dimensional changes occurred in pre-dried wood thereafter, fresh wood showed a rapid shrinkage increase starting at 25% relative water loss. This dimensional change ceased when further moisture got lost and was even partially reversed. AE of fresh wood showed much higher activity and energy, which is a waveform feature that describes the strength of the acoustic signal. Extremely high single AE energy events were detected at this critical stage of dehydration. After partial recovery from shrinkage, neither dimensional changes nor AE activity showed differences between fresh and pre-dried wood after more than 80% relative moisture loss. Our results suggested that fresh sapwood is more prone to dehydration stresses than pre-dried sapwood. Differences in AE and shrinkage behavior might be due to the weakening or distortion of the pit membranes (cavitation fatigue), pit aspiration, structural changes of the cell walls and micro-checks, which occurred during the first dehydration cycle.
Bordered pits; Cavitation fatigue; Functional wood anatomy; Hydraulic conductance; Norway spruce (Picea abies); Acoustic emission testing; Wood shrinkage; X-ray computed tomography
The mechanical properties of wood are largely determined by the orientation of cellulose microfibrils in secondary cell walls. Several genes and their allelic variants have previously been found to affect microfibril angle (MFA) and wood stiffness; however, the molecular mechanisms controlling microfibril orientation and mechanical strength are largely uncharacterised. In the present study, cDNA microarrays were used to compare gene expression in developing xylem with contrasting stiffness and MFA in juvenile Pinus radiata trees in order to gain further insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying microfibril orientation and cell wall mechanics.
Juvenile radiata pine trees with higher stiffness (HS) had lower MFA in the earlywood and latewood of each ring compared to low stiffness (LS) trees. Approximately 3.4 to 14.5% out of 3, 320 xylem unigenes on cDNA microarrays were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness and MFA. Greater variation in MFA and stiffness was observed in earlywood compared to latewood, suggesting earlywood contributes most to differences in stiffness; however, 3-4 times more genes were differentially regulated in latewood than in earlywood. A total of 108 xylem unigenes were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with HS and LS in at least two seasons, including 43 unigenes with unknown functions. Many genes involved in cytoskeleton development and secondary wall formation (cellulose and lignin biosynthesis) were preferentially transcribed in wood with HS and low MFA. In contrast, several genes involved in cell division and primary wall synthesis were more abundantly transcribed in LS wood with high MFA.
Microarray expression profiles in Pinus radiata juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness has shed more light on the transcriptional control of microfibril orientation and the mechanical properties of wood. The identified candidate genes provide an invaluable resource for further gene function and association genetics studies aimed at deepening our understanding of cell wall biomechanics with a view to improving the mechanical properties of wood.
Vessels and tracheids represent the most important xylem cells with respect to long distance water transport in plants. Wood anatomical studies frequently provide several quantitative details of these cells, such as vessel diameter, vessel density, vessel element length, and tracheid length, while important information on the three dimensional structure of the hydraulic network is not considered. This paper aims to provide an overview of various techniques, although there is no standard protocol to quantify conduits due to high anatomical variation and a wide range of techniques available. Despite recent progress in image analysis programs and automated methods for measuring cell dimensions, density, and spatial distribution, various characters remain time-consuming and tedious. Quantification of vessels and tracheids is not only important to better understand functional adaptations of tracheary elements to environment parameters, but will also be essential for linking wood anatomy with other fields such as wood development, xylem physiology, palaeobotany, and dendrochronology.
bordered pit; pit membrane; tracheid; vessel; vessel element; wood anatomy
Tree-ring width, wood density, anatomical structure and 13C/12C ratios expressed as δ13C-values of whole wood of Picea abies were investigated for trees growing in closed canopy forest stands. Samples were collected from the alpine Renon site in North Italy, the lowland Hainich site in Central Germany and the boreal Flakaliden site in North Sweden. In addition, Pinus cembra was studied at the alpine site and Pinus sylvestris at the boreal site. The density profiles of tree rings were measured using the DENDRO-2003 densitometer, δ13C was measured using high-resolution laser-ablation-combustion-gas chromatography-infra-red mass spectrometry and anatomical characteristics of tree rings (tracheid diameter, cell-wall thickness, cell-wall area and cell-lumen area) were measured using an image analyzer. Based on long-term statistics, climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit, explained <20% of the variation in tree-ring width and wood density over consecutive years, while 29–58% of the variation in tree-ring width were explained by autocorrelation between tree rings. An intensive study of tree rings between 1999 and 2003 revealed that tree ring width and δ13C-values of whole wood were significantly correlated with length of the growing season, net radiation and vapor pressure deficit. The δ13C-values were not correlated with precipitation or temperature. A highly significant correlation was also found between δ13C of the early wood of one year and the late wood of the previous year, indicating a carry-over effect of the growing conditions of the previous season on current wood production. This latter effect may explain the high autocorrelation of long-term tree-ring statistics. The pattern, however, was complex, showing stepwise decreases as well as stepwise increases in the δ13C between late wood and early wood. The results are interpreted in the context of the biochemistry of wood formation and its linkage to storage products. It is clear that the relations between δ13C and tree-ring width and climate are multi-factorial in seasonal climates.
Dendrochonology; Carbohydrate storage; Picea abies; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Tracheid lumen area; Wood density
The aim of this study was to investigate bending stiffness and compression strength perpendicular to the grain of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) trunkwood with different anatomical and hydraulic properties. Hydraulically less safe mature sapwood had bigger hydraulic lumen diameters and higher specific hydraulic conductivities than hydraulically safer juvenile wood. Bending stiffness (MOE) was higher, whereas radial compression strength lower in mature than in juvenile wood. A density-based tradeoff between MOE and hydraulic efficiency was apparent in mature wood only. Across cambial age, bending stiffness did not compromise hydraulic efficiency due to variation in latewood percent and because of the structural demands of the tree top (e.g. high flexibility). Radial compression strength compromised, however, hydraulic efficiency because it was extremely dependent on the characteristics of the “weakest” wood part, the highly conductive earlywood. An increase in conduit wall reinforcement of earlywood tracheids would be too costly for the tree. Increasing radial compression strength by modification of microfibril angles or ray cell number could result in a decrease of MOE, which would negatively affect the trunk’s capability to support the crown. We propose that radial compression strength could be an easily assessable and highly predictive parameter for the resistance against implosion or vulnerability to cavitation across conifer species, which should be topic of further studies.
Compression strength perpendicular to the grain; Conduit wall reinforcement; Hydraulic efficiency; Modulus of elasticity in bending; Norway spruce; Structure–function relationships; Vulnerability to cavitation; Wood shrinkage
During the development of many fleshy fruits, water flow becomes progressively more phloemic and less xylemic. In grape (Vitis vinifera L.), the current hypothesis to explain this change is that the tracheary elements of the peripheral xylem break as a result of berry growth, rendering the xylem structurally discontinuous and hence non-functional. Recent work, however, has shown via apoplastic dye movement through the xylem of post-veraison berries that the xylem should remain structurally intact throughout berry development. To corroborate this, peripheral xylem structure in developing Chardonnay berries was investigated via maceration and plastic sectioning. Macerations revealed that, contrary to current belief, the xylem was comprised mostly of vessels with few tracheids. In cross-section, the tracheary elements of the vascular bundles formed almost parallel radial files, with later formed elements toward the epidermis and earlier formed elements toward the centre of the berry. Most tracheary elements remained intact throughout berry maturation, consistent with recent reports of vascular dye movement in post-veraison berries.
Tracheary element; vasculature; vessel; water movement
The relationship between stem CO2 efflux (ES), cambial activity and xylem production in Pinus cembra was determined at the timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) of the Central Austrian Alps, throughout one year. ES was measured continuously from June 2006 to August 2007 using an infrared gas-analysis system. Cambial activity and xylem production was determined by repeated microcore sampling of the developing tree ring and radial increment was monitored using automated point dendrometers. Aside of temperature, the number of living tracheids and cambial cells was predominantly responsible for ES: ES normalized to 10°C (ES10) was significantly correlated to number of living cells throughout the year (r2 = 0,574; p < 0,001). However, elevated ES and missing correlation between ES10 and xylem production was detected during cambial reactivation in April and during transition from active phase to rest, which occurred in August and lasted until early September. Results of this study indicate that (i) during seasonal variations in cambial activity non-linearity between ES and xylem production occurs and (ii) elevated metabolic activity during transition stages in the cambial activity-dormancy cycle influence the carbon budget of Pinus cembra. Daily radial stem increment was primarily influenced by the number of enlarging cells and was not correlated to ES.
cambial reactivation; dormancy; Pinus cembra; radial stem growth; sap flow; stem CO2 efflux; stem respiration; xylem production
Background and Aims
In response to inclination stimuli, gymnosperm trees undergo corrective growth during which compression wood develops on the lower side of the inclined stem. High compressive growth stress is generated in the compression wood region and is an important factor in righting the stem. The aims of the study were to elucidate how the generation of compressive growth stress in the compression wood region is involved in the righting response and thus to determine a righting mechanism for tree saplings.
Cryptomeria japonica saplings were grown at inclinations of 0° (vertical) to 50°. At each inclination angle, the growth stress on the lower side of the inclined stem was investigated, together with the degree of compression-wood development such as the width of the current growth layer and lignin content, and the upward bending moment.
Growth stress, the degree of compression wood development, and the upward moment grew as the stem inclination angle increased from 0 to 30°, but did not rise further at inclinations > 30°.
The results suggest the following righting mechanism for gymnosperm saplings. As the stem inclination is elevated from 0 to 30°, the degree of compression wood development increases to force the sapling back to its original orientation; at inclinations > 30°, the maximum degree of compression wood is formed and additional time is needed for the stem to reorient itself.
Artificial inclination; compression wood; compressive growth stress; Cryptomeria japonica; reaction wood; reorientation
Wood extractives, commonly referred to as pitch, cause major problems in the manufacturing of pulp and paper. Treatment of nonsterile southern yellow pine chips for 14 days with Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas sp., Xanthomonas campestris, and Serratia marcescens reduced wood extractives by as much as 40%. Control treatments receiving only water lost 11% of extractives due to the growth of naturally occurring microorganisms. Control treatments were visually discolored after the 14-day incubation, whereas bacterium-treated wood chips were free of dark staining. Investigations using P. fluorescens NRRL B21432 showed that all individual resin and fatty acid components of the pine wood extractives were substantially reduced. Micromorphological observations showed that bacteria were able to colonize resin canals, ray parenchyma cells, and tracheids. Tracheid pit membranes within bordered pit chambers were degraded after treatment with P. fluorescens NRRL B21432. P. fluorescens and the other bacteria tested appear to have the potential for biological processing to substantially reduce wood extractives in pine wood chips prior to the paper making process so that problems associated with pitch in pulp mills can be controlled.
• Background and Aims The effect of heating and cooling on cambial activity and cell differentiation in part of the stem of Norway spruce (Picea abies) was investigated.
• Methods A heating experiment (23–25 °C) was carried out in spring, before normal reactivation of the cambium, and cooling (9–11 °C) at the height of cambial activity in summer. The cambium, xylem and phloem were investigated by means of light- and transmission electron microscopy and UV-microspectrophotometry in tissues sampled from living trees.
• Key Results Localized heating for 10 d initiated cambial divisions on the phloem side and after 20 d also on the xylem side. In a control tree, regular cambial activity started after 30 d. In the heat-treated sample, up to 15 earlywood cells undergoing differentiation were found to be present. The response of the cambium to stem cooling was less pronounced, and no anatomical differences were detected between the control and cool-treated samples after 10 or 20 d. After 30 d, latewood started to form in the sample exposed to cooling. In addition, almost no radially expanding tracheids were observed and the cambium consisted of only five layers of cells. Low temperatures reduced cambial activity, as indicated by the decreased proportion of latewood. On the phloem side, no alterations were observed among cool-treated and non-treated samples.
• Conclusions Heating and cooling can influence cambial activity and cell differentiation in Norway spruce. However, at the ultrastructural and topochemical levels, no changes were observed in the pattern of secondary cell-wall formation and lignification or in lignin structure, respectively.
Norway spruce; Picea abies; cambium; xylem; phloem; cell differentiation; heating; cooling; light microscopy; transmission electron microscopy; UV-microspectrophotometry
Background and Aims
Wood density is a key variable for understanding life history strategies in tropical trees. Differences in wood density and its radial variation were related to the shade-tolerance of six canopy tree species in seasonally dry tropical forest in Thailand. In addition, using tree ring measurements, the influence of tree size, age and annual increment on radial density gradients was analysed.
Wood density was determined from tree cores using X-ray densitometry. X-ray films were digitized and images were measured, resulting in a continuous density profile for each sample. Mixed models were then developed to analyse differences in average wood density and in radial gradients in density among the six tree species, as well as the effects of tree age, size and annual increment on radial increases in Melia azedarach.
Average wood density generally reflected differences in shade-tolerance, varying by nearly a factor of two. Radial gradients occurred in all species, ranging from an increase of (approx. 70%) in the shade-intolerant Melia azedarach to a decrease of approx. 13% in the shade-tolerant Neolitsea obtusifolia, but the slopes of radial gradients were generally unrelated to shade-tolerance. For Melia azedarach, radial increases were most-parsimoniously explained by log-transformed tree age and annual increment rather than by tree size.
The results indicate that average wood density generally reflects differences in shade-tolerance in seasonally dry tropical forests; however, inferences based on wood density alone are potentially misleading for species with complex life histories. In addition, the findings suggest that a ‘whole-tree’ view of life history and biomechanics is important for understanding patterns of radial variation in wood density. Finally, accounting for wood density gradients is likely to improve the accuracy of estimates of stem biomass and carbon in tropical trees.
Radial gradients; shade-tolerance; tree biomass estimates; tree rings; tropical trees; wood density
Wood is a major renewable natural resource for the timber, fibre and bioenergy industry. Pinus radiata D. Don is the most important commercial plantation tree species in Australia and several other countries; however, genomic resources for this species are very limited in public databases. Our primary objective was to sequence a large number of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from genes involved in wood formation in radiata pine.
Six developing xylem cDNA libraries were constructed from earlywood and latewood tissues sampled at juvenile (7 yrs), transition (11 yrs) and mature (30 yrs) ages, respectively. These xylem tissues represent six typical development stages in a rotation period of radiata pine. A total of 6,389 high quality ESTs were collected from 5,952 cDNA clones. Assembly of 5,952 ESTs from 5' end sequences generated 3,304 unigenes including 952 contigs and 2,352 singletons. About 97.0% of the 5,952 ESTs and 96.1% of the unigenes have matches in the UniProt and TIGR databases. Of the 3,174 unigenes with matches, 42.9% were not assigned GO (Gene Ontology) terms and their functions are unknown or unclassified. More than half (52.1%) of the 5,952 ESTs have matches in the Pfam database and represent 772 known protein families. About 18.0% of the 5,952 ESTs matched cell wall related genes in the MAIZEWALL database, representing all 18 categories, 91 of all 174 families and possibly 557 genes. Fifteen cell wall-related genes are ranked in the 30 most abundant genes, including CesA, tubulin, AGP, SAMS, actin, laccase, CCoAMT, MetE, phytocyanin, pectate lyase, cellulase, SuSy, expansin, chitinase and UDP-glucose dehydrogenase. Based on the PlantTFDB database 41 of the 64 transcription factor families in the poplar genome were identified as being involved in radiata pine wood formation. Comparative analysis of GO term abundance revealed a distinct transcriptome in juvenile earlywood formation compared to other stages of wood development.
The first large scale genomic resource in radiata pine was generated from six developing xylem cDNA libraries. Cell wall-related genes and transcription factors were identified. Juvenile earlywood has a distinct transcriptome, which is likely to contribute to the undesirable properties of juvenile wood in radiata pine. The publicly available resource of radiata pine will also be valuable for gene function studies and comparative genomics in forest trees.
• Background and Aims The structure of pit membranes in angiosperms has not been fully examined and our understanding about the structure is incomplete. Therefore, this study aims to illustrate the micromorphology of pit membranes in fibres and tracheids of woody species from various families.
• Methods Specimens from ten species from ten genera and eight families were prepared using two techniques and examined by field-emission scanning electron microscopy.
• Key Results Interfibre pit membranes with an average diameter of <4 µm were frequently perforated or appeared to be very porous. In contrast, pit membranes in imperforate tracheary elements with distinctly bordered pits and an average diameter of ≥4 µm were homogeneous and densely packed with microfibrils. These differences were observed consistently not only among species but also within a single species in which different types of imperforate tracheary elements were present.
• Conclusions This study demonstrates that the structure of interfibre pit membranes differs among cell types and the differences are closely associated with the specialization of the fibre cells. It is suggested that perforated pit membranes between specialized fibres contribute to the dehydration of the fibre cells at or soon after maturation.
Wood anatomy; angiosperms; field-emission scanning electron microscopy; pit; pit membrane; fibre; tracheid
• Background and Aims Although mangroves have been extensively studied, little is known about their ecological wood anatomy. This investigation examined the potential use of vessel density as a proxy for soil water salinity in the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata (Rhizophoraceae) from Kenya.
• Methods In a time-standardized approach, 50 wood discs from trees growing in six salinity categories were investigated. Vessel densities, and tangential and radial diameters of rainy and dry season wood of one distinct year, at three positions on the stem discs, were measured. A repeated-measures ANOVA with the prevailing salinity was performed.
• Key Results Vessel density showed a significant increase with salinity, supporting its use as a prospective measure of salinity. Interestingly, the negative salinity response of the radial diameter of vessels was less striking, and tangential diameter was constant under the varying environmental conditions. An effect of age or growth rate or the presence of vessel dimorphism could be excluded as the cause of the absence of any ecological trend.
• Conclusions The clear trend in vessel density with salinity, together with the absence of a growth rate and age effect, validates the potential of vessel density as an environmental proxy. However, it can only be used as a relative measure of salinity given that other environmental variables such as inundation frequency have an additional influence on vessel density. With view to a reliable, absolute proxy, future research should focus on finding wood anatomical features correlated exclusively with soil water salinity or inundation frequency. The plasticity in vessel density with differing salinity suggests a role in the establishment of a safe water transport system. To confirm this hypothesis, the role of inter-vessel pits, their relationship to the rather constant vessel diameter and the underlying physiology and cell biology needs to be examined.
Rhizophora mucronata; mangrove; ecological wood anatomy; vessel density; vessel diameter; proxy; salinity; inundation frequency; Kenya; hydraulic architecture
Background and Aims
Our knowledge about the influences of environmental factors on tree growth is principally based on the study of dominant trees. However, tree social status may influence intra-annual dynamics of growth, leading to differential responses to environmental conditions. The aim was to determine whether within-stand differences in stem diameters of trees belonging to different crown classes resulted from variations in the length of the growing period or in the rate of cell production.
Cambial activity was monitored weekly in 2006 for three crown classes in a 40-year-old silver-fir (Abies alba) plantation near Nancy (France). Timings, duration and rate of tracheid production were assessed from anatomical observations of the developing xylem.
Cambial activity started earlier, stopped later and lasted longer in dominant trees than in intermediate and suppressed ones. The onset of cambial activity was estimated to have taken 3 weeks to spread to 90 % of the trees in the stand, while the cessation needed 6 weeks. Cambial activity was more intense in dominant trees than in intermediate and suppressed ones. It was estimated that about 75 % of tree-ring width variability was attributable to the rate of cell production and only 25 % to its duration. Moreover, growth duration was correlated to tree height, while growth rate was better correlated to crown area.
These results show that, in a closed conifer forest, stem diameter variations resulted principally from differences in the rate of xylem cell production rather than in its duration. Tree size interacts with environmental factors to control the timings, duration and rate of cambial activity through functional processes involving source–sink relationships principally, but also hormonal controls.
Cambial activity; forest-stand structure; silver fir (Abies alba); tree-ring formation; tree-to-tree competition; social status; wood anatomy; xylem cell differentiation
Background and Aims
According to the air-seeding hypothesis, embolism vulnerability in xylem elements is linked directly to bordered pit structure and functioning. To elucidate the adaptive potential of intervessel pits towards fluctuating environmental conditions, two mangrove species with a distinct ecological distribution growing along a natural salinity gradient were investigated.
Scanning and transmission electron microscopic observations were conducted to obtain qualitative and quantitative characteristics of alternate intervessel pits in A. marina and scalariform intervessel pits in Rhizophora mucronata. Wood samples from three to six trees were collected at seven and five sites for A. marina and R. mucronata, respectively, with considerable differences between sites in soil water salinity.
Vestured pits without visible pores in the pit membrane were observed in A. marina, the mangrove species with the widest geographical distribution on global as well as local scale. Their thick pit membranes (on average 370 nm) and minute pit apertures may contribute to reduced vulnerability to cavitation of this highly salt-tolerant species. The smaller ecological distribution of R. mucronata was in accordance with wide pit apertures and a slightly higher pitfield fraction (67 % vs. 60 % in A. marina). Nonetheless, its outer pit apertures were observed to be funnel-shaped shielding non-porous pit membranes. No trends in intervessel pit size were observed with increasing soil water salinity of the site.
The contrasting ecological distribution of two mangrove species was reflected in the geometry and pit membrane characteristics of their intervessel pits. Within species, intervessel pit size seemed to be independent of spatial variations in environmental conditions and was only weakly correlated with vessel diameter. Further research on pit formation and function has to clarify the large variations in intervessel pit size within trees and even within single vessels.
Rhizophora mucronata; Avicennia marina; intervessel pits; salinity; Kenya; pit membrane; vestures; ecological wood anatomy; cavitation vulnerability; xylem; field-emission SEM; TEM
Background and Aims
Alterations of plasmodesma (PD) connectivity are likely to be very important for plant development. Here, the repetitive division pattern of cambial initials in Populus nigra ‘italica’ was studied to follow the development of the PD network during maturation. Furthermore, seasonal changes were investigated in order to trace indications for developmental and functional adaptations.
Cambium samples of P. nigra twigs, collected in summer, autumn and spring, were chemically fixed for transmission electron microscopy. The parameters, PD density (number of PDs per square micrometre cell-wall area) and PD frequency (total number of PDs per average cell-wall area), were determined for radial and tangential cell interfaces deposited in chronological order.
Data sets, presented in plasmodesmograms, show a strong variability in the PD network throughout the year. In summer, high PD numbers occur at the division wall which, after PD doubling by longitudinal fission, decline with further development both at the xylem and the phloem side. In autumn, the number of PDs at the division wall is low as they are in subsequent tangential interfaces. In spring, the first cell division coincides with a massive increase in PD numbers, in particular at the division wall. Only the radial walls between initials maintain their PD equipment throughout the year. This feature can be exploited for identification of the initial layer.
PD networks in the cambium go through a strict developmental programme depending on the season, which is associated with changing functional requirements. For instance, PD numbers correlate with proliferative activity and potential pathways for intercellular signalling. Increases in PD numbers are ascribed to longitudinal fission as a major mechanism, whereas the decline in older derivatives is ascribed to PD degradation.
Cambium; meristem initials; plasmodesmata; Populus nigra ‘italica’; seasonal conditions; ultrastructure
Background and Aims
Plants of Ephedra normally have vessels, but are known to become nearly vessel-less in some alpine localities. Previous studies implied that wood formation in Ephedra differs fundamentally from that in dicotyledons in which vessel-bearing and vessel-less taxa are systematically distinct. Using E. pachyclada in the Mustang district of Nepal, growing in an altitudinal range of over 2000 m, variation in wood formation and adaptation to alpine environment was studied in this normally vessel-bearing species.
Variation in wood anatomy and wood formation was observed with conventional optical microscopy. The lengths of three kinds of tracheary elements were measured and statistically analysed against habitat altitude and plant size of the individuals studied.
In E. pachyclada three kinds of tracheary elements, vessel elements, tracheids and fibre-tracheids, were nearly equal in length within individuals showing no elongation after differentiation from cambial initials. Tracheary element lengths among individuals had a negative correlation with altitude and a positive correlation with plant size. Multivariate analyses showed that altitude has a stronger correlation with tracheary element lengths than plant height or stem diameter. Moreover, several individuals from high elevations completely lacked vessels, and vessel formation fluctuated even in individuals from lower elevations.
Wood anatomical trends in E. pachyclada are considered as an adaptation to extremely dry conditions in high mountains. Fluctuation in vessel formation in individuals from low elevations indicated that vessels differentiate only when their lateral expansion is allowed. These results showed that E. pachyclada has a different system of wood formation from dicotyledons and supported the opinion that the wood structure of Gnetales is fundamentally different from that of angiosperms.
Ephedra pachyclada; Gnetales; habitat altitude; plant height; stem diameter; tracheary element length; vessel loss; wood formation
The diameter of vascular conduits increases towards the stem base. It has been suggested that this profile is an efficient anatomical feature for reducing the hydraulic resistance when trees grow taller. However, the mechanism that controls the cell diameter along the plant is not fully understood. The timing of cell differentiation along the stem was investigated. Cambial activity and cell differentiation were investigated in a Picea abies tree (11.5 m in height) collecting microsamples at nine different heights (from 1 to 9 m) along the stem with a 4 d time interval. Wood sections (8–12 μm thick) were stained and observed under a light microscope with polarized light to differentiate the developing xylem cells. Cell wall lignification was detected using cresyl violet acetate. The first enlarging cells appeared almost simultaneously along the tree axis indicating that cambium activation is not height-dependent. A significant increase in the duration of the cell expansion phase was observed towards the tree base: at 9 m from the ground, xylem cells expanded for 7 d, at 6 m for 14 d, and at 3 m for 19 d. The duration of the expansion phase is positively correlated with the lumen area of the tracheids (r2=0.68, P < 0.01) at the same height. By contrast, thickness of the cell wall of the earlywood did not show any trend with height. The lumen area of the conduits down the stem appeared linearly dependent on time during which differentiating cells remained in the expansion phase. However, the inductive signal of such long-distance patterned differentiation remains to be identified.
Auxin; cambium; cell differentiation; conduit tapering; Picea abies polar pattern growth
By exploiting the abundant tissues available from Populus trees, 3–4 m high, we have been able to isolate plasma membranes of high purity from leaves, xylem, and cambium/phloem at a time (4 weeks after bud break) when photosynthesis in the leaves and wood formation in the xylem should have reached a steady state. More than 40% of the 956 proteins identified were found in the plasma membranes of all three tissues and may be classified as “housekeeping” proteins, a typical example being P-type H+-ATPases. Among the 213 proteins predicted to be integral membrane proteins, transporters constitute the largest class (41%) followed by receptors (14%) and proteins involved in cell wall and carbohydrate metabolism (8%) and membrane trafficking (8%). ATP-binding cassette transporters (all members of subfamilies B, C, and G) and receptor-like kinases (four subfamilies) were two of the largest protein families found, and the members of these two families showed pronounced tissue distribution. Leaf plasma membranes were characterized by a very high proportion of transporters, constituting almost half of the integral proteins. Proteins involved in cell wall synthesis (such as cellulose and sucrose synthases) and membrane trafficking were most abundant in xylem plasma membranes in agreement with the role of the xylem in wood formation. Twenty-five integral proteins and 83 soluble proteins were exclusively found in xylem plasma membranes, which identifies new candidates associated with cell wall synthesis and wood formation. Among the proteins uniquely found in xylem plasma membranes were most of the enzymes involved in lignin biosynthesis, which suggests that they may exist as a complex linked to the plasma membrane.