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Sources of Variation in Osmotic Potentials with Special Reference to North American Tree Species

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The purpose of this review is to discuss sources of variation in osmotic potentials (), with special reference to North American tree species. Lowering of osmotic potentials by solute accumulation (osmotic adjustment) has been reported in a wide variety of tree species during drought, but not in all species. Osmotic potentials at zero turgor for 37 tree species throughout the United States and Canada averaged (± s.e.) - 2.06 ± 0.13 MPa and - 2.54 ± 0.06 MPa for leaves or shoots under moist and dry conditions, respectively. The low standard error associated with the mean values suggest that, as a group, North American trees develop fairly similar osmotic potentials for a range of moisture conditions. Substantial solute accumulation often routinely occurs in developing leaves and in over-wintering leaves. Drought preconditioning can increase physiological activity in plants during subsequent drought by lowering . However, if drought is imposed too rapidly osmotic adjustment may not occur. Physiological plasticity in trees may cause variations in  in responses to light regime and leaf canopy position. Light and nutrient regimes that promote high net photosynthesis should also promote the ability to osmotically adjust. However, stomatal responses and growth during water and nutrient stress may be unrelated to osmotic potentials because of species differences in rooting and water transport, guard cell turgor not being closely coupled with that of the bulk leaf, and changes in plant growth regulator concentrations. When examining changes in osmotic potentials using pressure-volume curves, it is important to rehydrate plant material to a water potential characteristic for that species at full hydration in the field. Moreover, as with most physiological measurements, sampling variation in light regime, canopy position, nutrient status, temperature, age, phenology, drought history, and diurnal timing of harvesting of the leaves and shoots should be minimized. For. Sci. 34(4):1030-1046.
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Keywords: Water relations; drought; environmental factors; pressure-volume curves; sampling variation; water potential

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Assistant Professor, School of Forest Resources, 4 Ferguson Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802

Publication date: 1988-12-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.782 (Rank 17/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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