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Tree Physiol. 2004 Aug;24(8):901-9.

Dynamics of transpiration, sap flow and use of stored water in tropical forest canopy trees.

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  • 1USDA Forest Service, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


In large trees, the daily onset of transpiration causes water to be withdrawn from internal storage compartments, resulting in lags between changes in transpiration and sap flow at the base of the tree. We measured time courses of sap flow, hydraulic resistance, plant water potential and stomatal resistance in co-occurring tropical forest canopy trees with trunk diameters ranging from 0.34-0.98 m, to determine how total daily water use and daily reliance on stored water scaled with size. We also examined the effects of scale and tree hydraulic properties on apparent time constants for changes in transpiration and water flow in response to fluctuating environmental variables. Time constants for water movement were estimated from whole-tree hydraulic resistance (R) and capacitance (C) using an electric circuit analogy, and from rates of change in water movement through intact trees. Total daily water use and reliance on stored water were strongly correlated with trunk diameter, independent of species. Although total daily withdrawal of water from internal storage increased with tree size, its relative contribution to the daily water budget (approximately 10%) remained constant. Net withdrawal of water from storage ceased when upper branch water potential corresponded to the sapwood water potential (Psi(sw)) at which further withdrawal of water from sapwood would have caused Psi(sw) to decline precipitously. Stomatal coordination of vapor and liquid phase resistances played a key role in limiting stored water use to a nearly constant fraction of total daily water use. Time constants for changes in transpiration, estimated as the product of whole- tree R and C, were similar among individuals (~0.53 h), indicating that R and C co-varied with tree size in an inverse manner. Similarly, time constants estimated from rates of change in crown and basal sap flux were nearly identical among individuals and therefore independent of tree size and species.

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