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Levionnois, S., Jansen, S., Wandji, R. T., Beauchêne, J., Ziegler, C., Coste, S., et al. (2021). Linking drought-induced xylem embolism resistance to wood anatomical traits in Neotropical trees. New Phytol., 229(3), 1453–1466.
Abstract: Drought-induced xylem embolism is considered to be one of the main factors driving mortality in woody plants worldwide. Although several structure–functional mechanisms have been tested to understand the anatomical determinants of embolism resistance, there is a need to study this topic by integrating anatomical data for many species. We combined optical, laser, and transmission electron microscopy to investigate vessel diameter, vessel grouping, and pit membrane ultrastructure for 26 tropical rainforest tree species across three major clades (magnoliids, rosiids, and asteriids). We then related these anatomical observations to previously published data on drought-induced embolism resistance, with phylogenetic analyses. Vessel diameter, vessel grouping, and pit membrane ultrastructure were all predictive of xylem embolism resistance, but with weak predictive power. While pit membrane thickness was a predictive trait when vestured pits were taken into account, the pit membrane diameter-to-thickness ratio suggests a strong importance of the deflection resistance of the pit membrane. However, phylogenetic analyses weakly support adaptive coevolution. Our results emphasize the functional significance of pit membranes for air-seeding in tropical rainforest trees, highlighting also the need to study their mechanical properties due to the link between embolism resistance and pit membrane diameter-to-thickness ratio. Finding support for adaptive coevolution also remains challenging. © 2020 The Authors New Phytologist © 2020 New Phytologist Foundation
Keywords: bordered pits; drought-induced embolism; pit membrane; transmission electron microscopy; tropical trees; vessel grouping; xylem anatomy