Hydraulic properties and freezing-induced cavitation in sympatric evergreen and deciduous oaks with contrasting habitats

J. Cavender-Bares, N. M. Holbrook

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140 Scopus citations


We investigated the hydraulic properties in relation to soil moisture, leaf habit, and phylogenetic lineage of 17 species of oaks (Quercus) that occur sympatricaily in northern central Florida (USA). Leaf area per shoot increased and Huber values (ratio of sapwood area to leaf area) decreased with increasing soil moisture of species' habitats. As a result, maximum hydraulic conductance and maximum transpiration were positively correlated with mean soil moisture when calculated on a sapwood area basis, but not when calculated on a leaf area basis. This reveals the important role that changes in allometry among closely related species can play in co-ordinating water transport capacity with soil water availability. There were significant differences in specific conductivity between species, but these differences were not explained by leaf habit or by evolutionary lineage. However, white oaks had significantly smaller average vessel diameters than red oaks or live oaks. Due to their lower Huber values, maximum leaf specific conductivity (KL) was higher in evergreen species than in deciduous species and higher in live oaks than in red oaks or white oaks. There were large differences between species and between evolutionary lineages in freeze - thaw-induced embolism. Deciduous species, on average, showed greater vulnerability to freezing than evergreen species. This result is strongly influenced by evolutionary lineage. Specifically, white oaks, which are all deciduous, had significantly higher vulnerability to freezing than live oaks (all evergreen) and red oaks, which include both evergreen and deciduous species. These results highlight the importance of taking evolutionary lineage into account in comparative physiological studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1256
Number of pages14
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Freezing-induced embolism
  • Hydraulic conductance
  • Soil moisture
  • Vessel diameters
  • Vulnerability to cavitation


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