Water transport of native and exotic tree species in relation to xylem anatomical characteristics in low subtropical China.
Aims: Exotic fast-growing tree species have been commonly planted as pioneer species to facilitate ecological restoration in South China. Their growth and resource utilization behavior related to intrinsic physiology and structural properties have profound influences on forest ecosystem. However, the contrastive research focusing on water utilization features along with xylem anatomical properties between native and exotic species is scarce in South China. The objective of this study is to investigate the sapwood anatomical characteristics and water utilization conditions of native and exotic fast-growing species, and to elucidate the relationship between sap-flux density and conduit features. Methods: We measured sap-flux density, conduit length, diameter and density of four native species (Schima superba, Michelia macclurei, Castanopsis hystrix and Castanopsis fissa) and four exotic species (Eucalyptus citriodora, Eucalyptus urophylla × grandis, Acacia auriculaeformis and Acacia mangium). Sap flux density was measured based on the Granier's thermal dissipation probe method. The whole-tree water transport was quantified by multiplying sap-flux density by sapwood area. The measurements of conduit characteristics were conducted by using segregation and slice method. Important Findings: Sapwood area increased with the growing diameter at breast height (DBH) as a power function. Native species had a larger water-conducting tissue area than exotic species at the same DBH value when trees grew to a size with a certain value of DBH. The conduit diameter of exotic species was significantly larger than that of native species. Conversely, native species, such as S. superba and M. macclurei, had longer conduit length and higher conduit density than other tree species. Based on a physiological interpretation of the measured conduit characteristics, native tree species developed a safe water transport system while exotic fast-growing tree species come into being an efficient system instead. Water transport increased with the growing DBH as a power function, and the exponent for native species (1.60) was higher than that for exotic species (1.22). Under the combined impact of sap-flux density and sapwood area, native species presented a larger water transport at a larger DBH value, indicating that growth advantage of exotic fast-growing species might weaken as DBH increased.