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Electrical properties of temperate forest trees: a review and quantitative comparison with vines

Journal Article

Gora EM; Yanaviak SP

2014

Canadian Journal of Forest Research

45

236-245

Trees form the terrestrial interface with the atmosphere in forested regions. The electrical properties of trees may influence their response to atmospheric conditions and potentially lethal phenomena (e.g. lightning). We review the literature describing electrical properties of trees and provide a tabular summary of the methods and goals of each study. We hypothesized that electrical resistivity varies consistently among species and between growth forms. We surveyed resistivity of eight tree and three vine species in Michigan and Kentucky and we quantified resistivity over a moisture gradient for wood blocks of four tree species. Resistivity varied predictably with stem diameter and differed among species and growth forms. Specifically resistivity of trees was approximately 200% higher than resistivity of vines and resistivity of conifers was 135% higher than that of hardwoods. The regional comparison showed no difference in resistivity of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) between Michigan and Kentucky. These results in combination with interspecific differences observed among wood blocks suggest that there is a phylogenetic basis for variation in resistivity that reflects differences in anatomy and physiology. Our review and empirical survey provide a framework for studying the ecological effects of lightning in the context of the electrical properties of trees.

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El Proyecto de Ecología Liana es apoyado por la Universidad Marquette y financiado en parte por la National Science Foundation.