Are needles of Pinus pinaster more vulnerable to xylem embolism than branches? New insights from X-ray computed tomography

P.S. Bouche*, Sylvain Delzon, Brendan Choat, Eric Badel, T.J. Brodribb, R. Burlett, Herve Cochard, K. Charra-Vaskou, B. Lavigne, S. Li, Stefan Mayr, H. Morris, J.M. Torres-Ruiz, V. Zufferey, S. Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Plants can be highly segmented organisms with an independently redundant design of organs. In the context of plant hydraulics, leaves may be less embolism resistant than stems, allowing hydraulic failure to be restricted to distal organs that can be readily replaced.

We quantified drought-induced embolism in needles and stems of Pinus pinaster using high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT). HRCT observations of needles were compared with the rehydration kinetics method to estimate the contribution of extra-xylary pathways to declining hydraulic conductance.

High-resolution computed tomography images indicated that the pressure inducing 50% of embolized tracheids was similar between needle and stem xylem (P50 needle xylem = −3.62 MPa, P50 stem xylem = −3.88 MPa). Tracheids in both organs showed no difference in torus overlap of bordered pits. However, estimations of the pressure inducing 50% loss of hydraulic conductance at the whole needle level by the rehydration kinetics method were significantly higher (P50 needle = −1.71 MPa) than P50 needle xylem derived from HRCT.

The vulnerability segmentation hypothesis appears to be valid only when considering hydraulic failure at the entire needle level, including extra-xylary pathways. Our findings suggest that native embolism in needles is limited and highlight the importance of imaging techniques for vulnerability curves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)860-870
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Are needles of Pinus pinaster more vulnerable to xylem embolism than branches? New insights from X-ray computed tomography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this