Patterns of physiological drought tolerance and leaf venation architecture among 10 woody species.
Quick note on a new paper.
Scoffoni et al. determined the physiological drought tolerance and architecture of 10 woody species. The authors test key components of leaf venation architecture to understand the underlying leaf structural mechanisms for drought tolerance. Most work on drought tolerance focuses on stems and highlight xylem geometries, but the authors show that the density of veins in a leaf are the best correlate with its physiological tolerance of drought. High vein density provides insurance against embolism and allows water to continue to be supplied to areas adjacent to veins that have experienced embolisms that necessarily accompany low water potentials.
The authors highlight the need to separate leaf size and vein density, which were correlated in the study. But, the research raises an interesting question as to whether the need for higher vein densities serves as a constraint on leaf size and ultimately contributes to one of the major biogeographic patterns of plant form.
I also think their figure, shown above, is pretty stunning.
Scoffoni, C., M. Rawls, A. McKown, H. Cochard, and L. Sack. 2011. Decline of leaf hydraulic conductance with dehydration: relationship to leaf size and venation architecture. Plant Physiology 156:832-843.