Sap flow and water potential

Sap flow and water potential

The water balance of an ecosystem is largely influenced by the water balance of the corresponding plants, while in turn this plant water balance is influenced by the ecosystem itself. An understanding of these interaction processes therefore forms the basis for water balance examinations and for studies of plant physiology.

Sensors measuring sap flow record the transportation of water in stems or branches. The aim of today’s technology is to cause as little damage to the plant as possible and ideally none at all and to influence the transportation process as little as possible. The water potential of the plants can be determined both on woody parts and on leaf samples using psychrometers.

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Need for in-depth knowledge of plant water balance

In view of the increasingly frequent weather extremes, climate change and the associated consequences, e.g. for food security or biodiversity, a sound knowledge of the plant water balance and in particular of the drought tolerance of plants plays an important role.

The following scientific questions are in the foreground:

  •     How does transpiration affect nutrient and water supply and thus plant physiological processes?
  •     How do the internal transport mechanisms in plants work?
  •     How do plants respond to water deficiency?
  •     How does evapotranspiration affect the entire ecosystem?
  •     What are the feedback mechanisms?

Sap flow or xylem flow sensors are a proven and effective method to get to the bottom of these questions. The sensors minimally invasively record water transport in stems or branches for whole plants and can be used anywhere.

When studying the drought tolerance of plants, the following questions arise:

  •     How easily do plant roots extract water from the soil?
  •     When does soil become a limiting factor for water uptake by roots?
  •     What root and rhizosphere characteristics favor water uptake?
  •     What is the relationship between soil and plant?

The key to answering these questions lies in the existing water potential of the plant or its leaves. The water potential of plants can be determined on living plants by means of stem psychrometers or our Plant-Pressure-Ecotron, as well as on leaf samples by means of the "Scholander bomb".

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