Trees comparative ecology

Plant conservation is driven by local protection and science. We have published a paper in the New Phytologist (soon to be available), on the organization of plant conduits (called xylem). Understanding the anatomy and physiology of plants has plenty of uses, including predicting reaction to global warming and species success in ecological restoration.

Astonishingly, the maximum xylem size (Dmax) of each organ showed similar scaling with plant size and consistent widening from leaf mid-vein via stem to main root across species, independently of growth form, relative growth rate and leaf habit. We also found strong coordination of Dmax with average leaf area and of stem xylem area with whole-plant leaf area. It appears that seedlings of ecologically wide-ranging woody species converge in their allometric scaling of conduit diameters within and across plant organs. These relationships will contribute to modeling of water transport in woody vegetation that accounts for the whole life history from the trees’ regeneration phase to adulthood.

In other words, something as simple as vessel size in plants (measured in standardized conditions), tells a lot about the tree species ecology and allows comparisons among species, that can be used in a variety of applications including conservation action and restoration.

Jean-Philippe Puyravaud