Comparison of methods for detecting vulnerability of xylem embolism in Robinia pseudoacacia

AN Rui1 MENG Feng1 YIN Peng-Xian2 DU Guang-Yuan1

(1.College of Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100)
(2.College of Forestry, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100)
【Knowledge Link】pit membrane

【Abstract】 Aims The vulnerability of xylem embolism is one of the key physiological factors that are related to plant mortality. Vulnerability curves are typically used for determining the vulnerability of xylem embolism. However, the shapes of vulnerability curves vary with the methods of assessment, especially in plant species with long xylem vessels. This study aims to investigate the feasibility of using different methods for the establishment of vulnerability curves. Methods Robinia pseudoacacia branches, with long xylem vessels, were used as plant materials for comparison of three different methods in establishing the vulnerability curves, including bench top dehydration, Cochard Cavitron centrifugation and Sperry centrifugation. In the Sperry centrifugation method, the rotors of two different sizes were used to test the ‘open vessel artifact’ hypothesis. Important findings The vulnerability curve established by the bench top dehydration method displayed an “s” shape, while both the Cochard Cavitron centrifugation and Sperry centrifugation methods produced “r” shape curves. The vulnerability curves derived from the bench top dehydration method and the centrifugation methods were significantly different. Using the Sperry centrifugation method, the R. pseudoacacia branch samples in the 14.4 cm rotor had a higher proportion of open vessels, while the embolic vulnerability curves established on the 27.4 cm and 14.4 cm long branch segments were similar, indicating that the Sperry centrifugation method does not produce the open vessel artifact.

【Keywords】 embolism vulnerability; vulnerability curve; bench top dehydration; Cochard Cavitron centrifugation; Sperry centrifugation;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (31201122 and 31570588)

Download this article

(Translated by ZHAO B)


    Adams HD, Zeppel MJB, Anderegg WRL, Hartmann H, Landhäusser SM, Tissue DT, Huxman TE, Hudson PJ, Franz TE, Allen CD, Anderegg LDL, Barron-Gafford GA, Beerling DJ, Breshears DD, Brodribb TJ, Bugmann H, Cobb RC, Collins AD, Dickman LT, Duan H, Ewers BE, Galiano L, Galvez DA, Garcia-Forner N, Gaylord ML, Germino MJ, Gessler A, Hacke UG, Hakamada R, Hector A, Jenkins MW, Kane JM, Kolb TE, Law DJ, Lewis JD, Limousin JM, Love DM, Macalady AK, Martínez-Vilalta J, Mencuccini M, Mitchell PJ, Muss JD, O’Brien MJ, O’Grady AP, Pangle RE, Pinkard EA, Piper FI, Plaut JA, Pockman WT, Quirk J, Reinhardt K, Ripullone F, Ryan MG, Sala A, Sevanto S, Sperry JS, Vargas R, Vennetier M, Way DA, Xu C, Yepez EA, McDowell NG (2017). A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 1, 1285–1291.

    Allen CD, Macalady AK, Chenchouni H, Bachelet D, Dowell N, Vennetier M, Kitzberger T, Rigling A, Breshears DD, Hogg HH, Gonzalez P, Fensham R, Zhen Z, Castro J, Demidova N, Lim JH, Allard G, Running SW, Cobb N (2010). A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. Forest Ecology & Management, 259, 660–684.

    Choat B, Drayton WM, Brodersen C, Matthews MA, Shackel KA, Wada H, McElrone AJ (2010). Measurement of vulnerability to water stress-induced cavitation in grapevine: A comparison of four techniques applied to long-vesseled species. Plant, Cell & Environment, 33, 1502–1512.

    Choat B, Lahr E, Melcher PJ, Zwieniecki MA, Holbrook NM (2005). The spatial pattern of air seeding thresholds in mature sugar maple trees. Plant, Cell & Environment, 28, 1082–1089.

    Cochard H (2002). A technique for measuring xylem hydraulic conductance under high negative pressures. Plant, Cell & Environment, 25, 815–819.

    Cochard H, Badel E, Herbette S, Delzon S, Choat B, Jansen S (2013). Methods for measuring plant vulnerability to cavitation: A critical review. Experimental Botany, 64, 4779–4791.

    Cochard H, Damour G, Bodet C, Tharwat I, Poirier M, Améglio T (2005). Evaluation of a new centrifuge technique for rapid generation of xylem vulnerability curves. Physiologia Plantarum, 124, 410–418.

    Cochard H, Herbette S, Barigah T, Badel E, Ennajeh M, Vilagrosa A (2010). Does sample length influence the shape of xylem embolism vulnerability curves? A test with the Cavitron spinning technique. Plant, Cell & Environment, 33, 1543–1552.

    Cohen S, Benink J, Tyree M (2003). Air method measurements of apple vessel length distributions with improved apparatus and theory. Journal of Experimental Botany, 54, 1889–1897.

    Dai YX, Wang L, Wan XC (2015). Progress on researches of drought-induced tree mortality mechanisms. Chinese Journal of Ecology, 34, 3228–3236 (in Chinese).

    Dang W, Jiang ZM, Li R, Zhang SX, Cai J (2017). Relationship between hydraulic traits and refilling of embolism in the xylem of one-year-old twigs of six tree species. Scientia Silvae Sinicae, 53 (3), 49–59 (in Chinese).

    Dixon HH, Joly J (1895). On the ascent of sap. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 186, 563–576 (in Chinese).

    Domec JC, Gartner BL (2001). Cavitation and water storage capacity in bole xylem segments of mature and young Douglas-fir trees. Trees, 15, 204–214.

    Dong L, Li JY (2013). Relationship among drought, hydraulic metabolic, carbon starvation and vegetation mortality. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 33, 5477–5483 (in Chinese).

    Hacke UG, Venturas MD, MacK innon ED, Jacobsen AL, Sperry JS, Pratt RB (2015). The standard centrifuge method accurately measures vulnerability curves of long–vesselled olive stems. New Phytologist, 205, 116–127.

    Jacobsen AL, Pratt RB (2012). No evidence for an open vessel effect in centrifuge-based vulnerability curves of a long-vesselled liana (Vitis vinifera). New Phytologist, 194, 982–990.

    Jacobsen AL, Pratt RB, Davis SD, Tobin MF (2014). Geographic and seasonal variation in chaparral vulnerability to cavitation. Madrono, 61, 317–327.

    Li R, Dang W, Cai J, Zhang SX, Jiang ZM (2016). Relationships between xylem structure and embolism vulnerability in six drought tolerance trees. Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 40, 255–263 (in Chinese).

    Li R, Jiang ZM, Zhang SX, Cai J (2015). A review of new esearch progress on the vulnerability of xylem embolism of woody plants. Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 39, 838–848 (in Chinese).

    Maherali H, Pockman WT, Jackson RB (2004). Adaptive variation in the vulnerability of woody plants to xylem cavitation. Ecology, 85, 2184–2199.

    Melcher PJ, Zwieniecki MA, Holbrook NM (2003). Vulnerability of xylem vessels to cavitation in sugar maple. Scaling from individual vessels to whole branches. Plant Physiology, 131, 1775–1780.

    Rockwell FE, Wheeler JK, Holbrook NM (2014). Cavitation and its discontents: Opportunities for resolving current controversies. Plant Physiology, 164, 1649–1660.

    Sperry JS, Christman MA, Torrez-Ruiz JM, Taneda H, Smith DD (2012). Vulnerability curves by centrifugation: Is there an open vessel artifact, and are “r” shaped curves necessarily invalid? Plant, Cell & Environment, 35, 601–610.

    Sperry JS, Donnelly JR, Tyree MT (1988). A method for measuring hydraulic conductivity and embolism in xylem. Plant, Cell & Environment, 11, 35–40.

    Sperry JS, Tyree MT (1988). Mechanism of water stress-induced xylem embolism. Plant Physiology, 88, 581–587.

    Tyree MT, Alexander J, Machado JL (1992). Loss of hydraulic conductivity due to water stress in intact juveniles of Quercus rubra and Populus deltoides. Tree Physiology, 10, 411–415.

    Torres-Ruiz JM, Jansen S, Choat B, McElrone AJ, Cochard H, Brodribb TJ, Badel E, Burlett R, Bouche PS, Brodersen CR, Li S, Morris H, Delzon S (2015). Direct micro-CT observation confirms the induction of embolism upon xylem cutting under tension. Plant Physiology, 167, 40–43.

    TrifilòP, Nardini A, Gullo MAL, Barbera PM, Tadeja S (2015). Diurnal changes in embolism rate in nine dry forest trees: Relationships with species-specific xylem vulnerability, hydraulic strategy and wood traits. Tree Physiology, 57, 192–197.

    Van den Honert TH (1948). Water transport in plants as a catenary process. Discussions of the Faraday Society, 3, 146–153.

    Venturas MD, Sperry JS, Hacke UG (2017). Plant xylem hydraulics: What we understand, current research, and future challenges. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 59, 356–389.

    Wang RQ, Zhang LL, Zhang SX, Cai J, Tyree MT (2014). Water relations of Robinia pseudoacacia L.: Do vessels cavitate and refill diurnally or are R-shaped curves invalid in Robinia? Plant, Cell & Environment, 37, 2667–2678.

    Zimmermann MH (1983). Xylem Structure and the Ascent of Sap. Springer, Berlin.

This Article



Vol 42, No. 11, Pages 1113-1119

November 2018


Article Outline



  • 1 Materials and methods
  • 2 Results and analyses
  • 3 Discussion and conclusions
  • References