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    The performance and distribution of woody species strongly depend on their adjustment to environmental conditions based on genotypic and phenotypic properties. Since more intense and frequent drought events are expected due to climate change, xylem hydraulic traits will play a key role under future conditions, and thus, knowledge of hydraulic variability is of key importance. In this study, we aimed to investigate the variability in hydraulic safety and efficiency of the conifer shrub Juniperus communis based on analyses along an elevational transect and a common garden approach. We studied (i) juniper plants growing between 700 and 2000 m a.s.l. Innsbruck, Austria, and (ii) plants grown in the Innsbruck botanical garden (Austria) from seeds collected at different sites across Europe (France, Austria, Ireland, Germany and Sweden). Due to contrasting environmental conditions at different elevation and provenance sites and the wide geographical study area, pronounced variation in xylem hydraulics was expected. Vulnerability to drought-induced embolisms (hydraulic safety) was assessed via the Cavitron and ultrasonic acoustic emission techniques, and the specific hydraulic conductivity (hydraulic efficiency) via flow measurements. Contrary to our hypothesis, relevant variability in hydraulic safety and efficiency was neither observed across elevations, indicating a low phenotypic variation, nor between provenances, despite expected genotypic differences. Interestingly, the provenance from the most humid and warmest site (Ireland) and the northernmost provenance (Sweden) showed the highest and the lowest embolism resistance, respectively. The hydraulic conductivity was correlated with plant height, which indicates that observed variation in hydraulic traits was mainly related to morphological differences between plants. We encourage future studies to underlie anatomical traits and the role of hydraulics for the broad ecological amplitude of J. communis. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


    Lucrezia Unterholzner, Marco Carrer, Andreas Bär, Barbara Beikircher, Birgit Dämon, Adriano Losso, Angela Luisa Prendin, Stefan Mayr. Juniperus communis populations exhibit low variability in hydraulic safety and efficiency. Tree physiology. 2020 Dec 05;40(12):1668-1679

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    PMID: 32785622

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