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Tree Physiol. 2006 Oct;26(10):1277-88.

Vertical and horizontal water redistribution in Norway spruce (Picea abies) roots in the Moravian Upland.

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  • 1Institute of Forest Ecology, Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry, Zemedelska 3, 61300 Brno, Czech Republic.


Hydraulic redistribution (HR) by roots of large Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) trees was investigated by means of sap flow measurements made with the heat field deformation method. Irrigation was applied to a limited portion of the root system to steepen gradients of water potential in the soil and thus enhance rates of HR. On completion of the sap flow measurements, and to aid in their interpretation, the structure of the root system of seven of the investigated trees was exposed to a depth of 30 cm with a supersonic air-stream (air-spade). Before irrigation, vertical redistribution of water was observed in large coarse roots and some adjacent small lateral roots. Immediately after localized irrigation, horizontal redistribution of water from watered roots to dry roots via the stem base was demonstrated. The amount of horizontal distribution depended on the position of the receiving roots relative to the watered roots and the absorbing area of the watered root. No redistribution from watered roots via dry soil to roots of neighboring trees was detected. Responses of sap flow to localized irrigation were more pronounced in small lateral roots than in large branching roots where release and uptake of water are integrated. Sap flow measurements with multi-point sensors along radii in large lateral roots demonstrated water extraction from different soil horizons. We conclude that synchronous measurements of sap flow in both small and large lateral roots are needed to study water absorption and transport in tree root systems.

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