Hydraulic Architecture of Vascular Plants

  • Ernst SteudleEmail author
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 215)


When vascular plants are subjected to drought and eventually desiccate, they use different mechanisms to protect against water losses. Within the liquid phase, changes in hydraulics refer to part of these mechanisms of stress avoidance, which exclude the major role of gas exchange. At the input side, the water uptake by plant roots is governed by the composite structure of roots, which provides different pathways across the root cylinder. These are affected by the action of aquaporins (AQPs) in the cell membranes and apoplastic barriers along the cell wall path. The composite transport model is shown to provide mechanisms of short-term adaptation to water shortage. Composite transport and apoplastic barriers in roots should also be involved during the rehydration of resurrection plants, but this was not yet considered. Long-distance transport in the xylem according to the cohesion/tension (CT) mechanism is subject to cavitation, although xylem can withstand rather large tensions before vessels embolize. The problem is the refilling, where mechanisms have been proposed, but clues for solving the problem are missing. It is pointed out that, in resurrection plants, mechanisms of refilling appear to be more simple in that there is no refilling of empty xylem in the presence of a surrounding that has a water potential, which is more negative than that within the vessels. In the leaf, the major constraint with respect to hydraulic conductance is again cavitation, but detailed quantitative measurements are missing here to really provide physical models of the leaf hydraulic architecture. In both stem flow and leaf hydraulics, the role of living cells of xylem parenchyma is much discussed not only during refilling, but also during uptake and loss of water into or from vessels. Evidence for the action of AQPs in living tissue around xylem vessels comes from the temperature and light dependence of shoot hydraulic conductivity, which are hard to understand in terms of just viscose flow across vessels.


Hydraulic Conductivity Hydraulic Resistance Xylem Vessel Resurrection Plant Root Pressure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I thank Drs. Yangmin Kim, Department of Soil Physics, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Halle, Germany, and Kosala Ranathunge, Institute of Cellular and Molecular Botany, University of Bonn, Germany, for reading and discussing the manuscript.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant EcologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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