Costs and benefits of gas inside wood and its relationship with anatomical traits: a contrast betwee
Dias AS, Oliverira RS and Martins FR
Gas inside wood plays an important role in plant functioning, but there has been no study examining the adaptive nature of gas inside wood across plants differing in biomechanical demands. Using a comparative approach, we measured gas volumetric content, xylem’s anatomical traits and wood density of 15 tree and 16 liana species, to test whether gas content varies between these plant types strongly differing in their biomechanical demands. We asked (i) whether trees and lianas differ in gas content and (ii) how anatomical traits and wood density are related to gas content. Lianas had significantly less gas content in their branches compared with tree species. In tree species, gas content scaled positively with fiber, vessel and xylem cross-sectional area and fiber and vessel diameter, and negatively with dry-mass density. When pooling trees and lianas together, fiber cross-sectional area was the strongest predictor of gas content, with higher xylem cross-sectional area of fiber associated with higher gas content. In addition, we showed, through a simple analytical model, that gas inside wood increases the minimum branch diameter needed to prevent rupture, and this effect was stronger on trees compared with lianas. Our results support the view that gas inside wood plays an important role in the evolution of biomechanical functioning in different plant forms. Gas inside wood may also play an important role in physiological activities such as water transport, storage, photosynthesis and respiration, but it is still unknown whether these roles are or are not secondary to the mechanical support.