A research group led by Prof. YE Qing from the South China Botanical Garden of Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed the global variability in plant xylem hydraulic conductivity in relation to climatic variables, plant biomes and plant functional types. Their findings were published in Global Change Biology.
Stem xylem-specific hydraulic conductivity (KS) represents the potential for plant water transport normalized by xylem cross section, length, and driving force. Variation in KS has implications for plant transpiration and photosynthesis, growth and survival, and also the geographic distribution of species.
Clarifying the global-scale patterns of KS and its major drivers may help to better understand how plants adapt to different environmental conditions, particularly under climate change scenarios.
The researchers compiled a KS dataset with 1186 species-at-site combinations (975 woody species representing 146 families, from 199 sites worldwide), and investigated how KS varied with climatic variables, plant functional types, and biomes.
They found that growing-season temperature and precipitation drove global variation in KS independently. Both the mean and the variation in KS were highest in the warm and wet tropical regions, and lowest in cold and dry regions, such as tundra and desert biomes.
"Future warming and redistribution of seasonal precipitation may have a significant impact on species functional diversity, and is likely to be particularly important in regions becoming warmer or drier, such as high latitudes. Our study highlights an important role for KS in predicting shifts in community composition in the face of climate change." said Dr. HE Pengcheng, the first author of the paper.
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