Long-term xylem pressure measurements in the liana Tetrastigma voinierianum by means of the xylem pressure probe

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Diurnal changes of xylem pressure in the liana Tetrastigma voinierianum have been measured under greenhouse conditions by means of the recently developed xylem pressure probe. During the early morning hours, tensions in the vessels developed more or less rapidly with time, depending on light intensity. On sunny days, absolute negative pressures down to about -0.4 MPa (atmospheric = 0.1 MPa) were recorded around noon in petiolar or stem xylem vessels, whereas on rainy or cloudy days the xylem pressure remained in the positive sub-atmospheric or slightly negative pressure range. Towards the evening the tension in the vessels always decreased, i.e. the xylem pressure shifted to about atmospheric, or even above-atmospheric, values during the night. Simultaneous xylem pressure recordings at heights of 1 and 5 m frequently yielded either no gradient in tension at all, or far less than expected from the Cohesion Theory. Occasionally, tension gradients were even opposite to those predicted by this theory. Stem-toleaves pressure gradients in accord with the Cohesion Theory were recorded only when tension had been developed during sunny days in the upper branches of the liana, because increases in tension were not immediately propagated to the xylem of the leaves at ground level, as would be expected from a strictly coupled hydraulic system. Parallel recordings of the ldquoxylem tensionrdquo using the pressure chamber yielded rather variable values ranging from 0.1 to 1 MPa; diurnal pressure changes could not be detected at all. The data are discussed on the basis of the equation for the chemical activity of water. They strongly suggest that the xylem tension induced by transpiration is not the sole force for water ascent. Other forces, such as osmotic pressure or convectional and interfacial forces, which to a remarkable extent have already been postulated for decades, seem to be equally important.