Tapered conduits can buffer hydraulic conductance from path-length effects.

Abstract

The model of West, Brown and Enquist showed that total hydraulic resistance in trees can be independent of path length, provided that vascular conduits taper sufficiently. This model assumes that the tree branch network is volume-filling, so that segment lengths increase exponentially from tree top to base. We show that partial buffering of hydraulic resistance from path-length effects can occur even for moderate tapering, and that this effect is stronger when segment lengths are fixed. Still needed are measurements of tracheary size and hydraulic resistance designed to test this model, which shows how hydraulic limitation of tree height growth may be mitigated.

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