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Tree Physiol. 2002 Jun;22(8):575-81.

Effects of branch height on leaf gas exchange, branch hydraulic conductance and branch sap flux in open-grown ponderosa pine.

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USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA.


Recent studies have shown that stomata respond to changes in hydraulic conductance of the flow path from soil to leaf. In open-grown tall trees, branches of different heights may have different hydraulic conductances because of differences in path length and growth. We determined if leaf gas exchange, branch sap flux, leaf specific hydraulic conductance, foliar carbon isotope composition (delta13C) and ratios of leaf area to sapwood area within branches were dependent on branch height (10 and 25 m) within the crowns of four open-grown ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.) trees. We found no difference in leaf gas exchange or leaf specific hydraulic conductance from soil to leaf between the upper and lower canopy of our study trees. Branch sap flux per unit leaf area and per unit sapwood area did not differ between the 10- and 25-m canopy positions; however, branch sap flux per unit sapwood area at the 25-m position had consistently lower values. Branches at the 25-m canopy position had lower leaf to sapwood area ratios (0.17 m2 cm-2) compared with branches at the 10-m position (0.27 m2 cm-2) (P = 0.03). Leaf specific conductance of branches in the upper crown did not differ from that in the lower crown. Other studies at our site indicate lower hydraulic conductance, sap flux, whole-tree canopy conductance and photosynthesis in old trees compared with young trees. This study suggests that height alone may not explain these differences.

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