Hydraulic Constraints to Whole-Tree Water Use and Respiration in Young Cryptomeria Trees under Competition
Although extensive studies have focused on carbon and water balance from aboveground measurements, the link between the belowground and aboveground processes deserves greater attention. In this context, the aim of this work was to assess the bi-directional feedback between whole-plant respiration and transpiration. The study was performed on 25 saplings of Sugi (Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica D. Don), including dominant and suppressed individuals (total fresh weight ranging between 0.2 and 8.0 kg). During one week, the integrated water use (WU) was determined using the Deuterium dilution method. After this, the trees were uprooted and the root, stem, and leaf respiration were measured using incubation chambers and CO2 infrared sensors. The stem and root respiration followed a power response to mass (power exponent b < 1), implying a decline in mass-specific respiration with size. Conversely, the leaf respiration followed a near-linear increase with size (power exponent b ≈ 1), but was negatively affected by the stem density, indicating the hydraulic limitations of the leaf metabolism. The water use followed a power response with the tree size (b < 1), showing a decline in the transpiration per leaf mass with the tree size, but was also negatively correlated with the stem density. Our results indicate that dominant trees are more efficient in the use of water, and highlight the role of hydraulic limitations to leaf metabolism in suppressed trees.