Abstract

Leaf hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) and several characteristics of hydraulic architecture and physiology were measured during the first 10 weeks of leaf ontogeny in Populus tremula L. saplings growing under control, mild water deficit or elevated temperature conditions. During the initial 3 weeks of leaf ontogeny, most measured characteristics rapidly increased. Thereafter, a gradual decrease in Kleaf was correlated with a decrease in leaf osmotic potential under all conditions, and with increases in leaf dry mass per area and bulk modulus of elasticity under mild water deficit and control conditions. From about Week 3 onward, Kleaf was 33% lower in trees subjected to mild water deficit and 33% higher in trees held at an elevated temperature relative to control trees. Mild water deficit and elevated temperature treatment had significant and opposite effects on most of the other characteristics measured. The ontogenetic maximum in Kleaf was correlated positively with the width of xylem conduits in the midrib, but negatively with the overall width of the midrib xylem, number of lateral ribs, leaf dry mass per area and bulk modulus of elasticity. The ontogenetic maximum in Kleaf was also correlated positively with the proportion of intercellular spaces and leaf osmotic potential, but negatively with leaf thickness, volume of mesophyll cells and epidermis and number of cells per total mesophyll cell volume, the closest relationships being between leaf osmotic potential and number of cells per total mesophyll cell volume. It was concluded that differences in protoplast traits are more important than differences in xylem or parenchymal cell wall traits in determining the variability in Kleaf among leaves growing under different environmental conditions.