Plant height and hydraulic vulnerability to drought and cold

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Olson, Mark E.
Soriano, Diana
Rosell, Julieta A.
Anfodillo, Tommaso
Donoghue, Michael J.
Edwards, Erika J.
Leon-Gomez, Calixto
Dawson, Todd
Julio Camarero Martinez, J.
Castorena, Matiss
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Natl Acad Sciences
Understanding how plants survive drought and cold is increasingly important as plants worldwide experience dieback with drought in moist places and grow taller with warming in cold ones. Crucial in plant climate adaptation are the diameters of water-transporting conduits. Sampling 537 species across climate zones dominated by angiosperms, we find that plant size is unambiguously the main driver of conduit diameter variation. And because taller plants have wider conduits, and wider conduits within species are more vulnerable to conduction-blocking embolisms, taller conspecifics should be more vulnerable than shorter ones, a prediction we confirm with a plantation experiment. As a result, maximum plant size should be short under drought and cold, which cause embolism, or increase if these pressures relax. That conduit diameter and embolism vulnerability are inseparably related to plant size helps explain why factors that interact with conduit diameter, such as drought or warming, are altering plant heights worldwide.
adaptation, allometry, climate change, forest dieback, embolism vulnerability
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Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America. Washington: Natl Acad Sciences, v. 115, n. 29, p. 7551-7556, 2018.