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Tree Physiol. 1992 Jun;10(4):367-80.

Radial velocity profiles of water flow in trunks of Norway spruce and oak and the response of spruce to severing.

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Institute of Forest Ecology, Forest Faculty of Brno, Agricultural University, 64400 Brno-Sobesice, Czechoslovakia.


Trunk-tissue heat balance, volumetric and staining methods were used to study xylem water flow rates and pathways in mature Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) trees. The radial profile of flow velocity was confirmed to be symmetrical in spruce, i.e., maximum flow velocity was in the center of the conducting xylem and tailed with low amplitude (about 30 cm h(-1)) in the direction of the cambium and heartwood. Variability around the trunk was high. In contrast, in oak, the radial profile of flow velocity was highly asymmetrical, reaching a peak of about 45 m h(-1) in the youngest growth ring and tailing centripetally for about 10 rings, but variability around the trunk was less, under non-limiting soil water conditions, than in spruce. In spruce, the flow rate increased abruptly within seconds when the tree was severed while immersed in water, and then decreased gradually, showing significant root resistance. We conclude that water flow through an absorbing cut surface differs from the flow higher in a tree trunk because of the presence of hydraulic capacitances in the conductive pathways. The staining technique always yielded higher estimates of flow velocity than the non-destructive tree-trunk heat balance method.

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