EGU21-2887, updated on 03 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Measuring plant hydraulic conductivity: Should we push or should we pull?

Louis Krieger1, Stan Schymanski1, and Steven Jansen2
Louis Krieger et al.
  • 1Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Environmental Research and Innovation, Catchment and Eco-hydrology Research Group, Belvaux, Luxembourg (
  • 2Institute of Systematic Botany and Ecology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany (

Usually hydraulic conductance and vulnerability are measured under extreme conditions never experienced by living plants (e. g. centrifugation, bench dehydration, and large pressure gradients). A common factor that is known to inhibit the water transport in plants is embolism, which is believed to occur either by air entry through the pit valves on the walls of the xylem, or by ex-solution of dissolved gases, or vaporization of water at very low pressures.

Here we explore possibilities to measure hydraulic conductance and induce embolism under close to natural conditions. The setup consists of a syringe pump to control water flow, where a twig is inserted in the flow path to measure its hydraulic conductivity using pressure and flow meters. This setup has enabled us to imitate natural conditions where transpiration rate induces a pressure difference between the sink (leaf) and source (root) along the flow path. It has also allowed us to induce flow in both directions through the twig without having to rotate or change out the sample. Using our setup, we found that the conductivity of the same twig was 50% lower when pulling compared to pushing. This can be explained by the emptying and filling of cut end vessels and the pressure gradient along the twig, which is induced by the flow rate and flow direction. Our findings are discussed in the context that currently employed methods for measuring wood hydraulic conductance employ either centrifugation, where water is pulled on both ends, or pushing of water by applying positive pressure on one end.

How to cite: Krieger, L., Schymanski, S., and Jansen, S.: Measuring plant hydraulic conductivity: Should we push or should we pull?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2887,, 2021.


Display file