Plant height and hydraulic vulnerability to drought and cold

Abstract : As trees worldwide experience mortality or dieback with increasing drought and low tundras grow taller with warming, understanding the link between plant height and climate is increasingly important. We show that taller plants have predictably wider water-conducting conduits, and that wider conduits within species are more vulnerable to conduction-blocking embolisms. These two observations suggest that tall plants in formerly moist areas die because their wide conduits are excessively vulnerable under novel drought conditions. Also, the cold that limits conduit diameter, and therefore height, in tundra plants is relaxed under warming, permitting wider conduits and taller plants. That plant height appears linked to climate via plant hydraulics helps explain why vegetation height differs across biomes and is altering with climate change.Understanding how plants survive drought and cold is increasingly important as plants worldwide experience dieback with drought in moist places and grow taller with warming in cold ones. Crucial in plant climate adaptation are the diameters of water-transporting conduits. Sampling 537 species across climate zones dominated by angiosperms, we find that plant size is unambiguously the main driver of conduit diameter variation. And because taller plants have wider conduits, and wider conduits within species are more vulnerable to conduction-blocking embolisms, taller conspecifics should be more vulnerable than shorter ones, a prediction we confirm with a plantation experiment. As a result, maximum plant size should be short under drought and cold, which cause embolism, or increase if these pressures relax. That conduit diameter and embolism vulnerability are inseparably related to plant size helps explain why factors that interact with conduit diameter, such as drought or warming, are altering plant heights worldwide.
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Soumis le : lundi 15 juillet 2019 - 15:41:42
Dernière modification le : mardi 16 juillet 2019 - 01:22:45

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Mark Olson, Diana Soriano, Julieta Rosell, Tommaso Anfodillo, Michael Donoghue, et al.. Plant height and hydraulic vulnerability to drought and cold. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , National Academy of Sciences, 2018, 115 (29), pp.7551-7556. ⟨10.1073/pnas.1721728115⟩. ⟨hal-02183759⟩

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