Coordination of leaf area, sapwood area and canopy conductance leads to species convergence of tree water use in a remnant evergreen woodland

Melanie Zeppel*, Derek Eamus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


This paper compares rates of tree water use, Huber value, canopy conductance and canopy decoupling of two disparate, co-occurring tree species, in a stand of remnant native vegetation in temperate Australia in order to compare their relative behaviour seasonally and during and after a drought. The study site was an open woodland dominated by Eucalyptus crebra F.Muell. (a broad-leaved species) and Callitris glaucophylla J.Thompson & L.A.S. Johnson (a needle-leaved tree species). Tree water use was measured with sapflow sensors and leaf area and sapwood area were measured destructively on felled trees. The Huber value was calculated as the ratio of sapwood area to leaf area. Diameter at breast height (DBH) of the stem was used as a measure of tree size. Canopy conductance was calculated with an inversion of the Penman?Monteith equation, whereas canopy decoupling) was calculated as described by Lu et al. (2003). The relationship between DBH and daily total water use varied during the four measurement periods, with largest rates of water use observed in summer 2003-2004, following a large rainfall event and the smallest maximum water use observed in winter 2003 when monthly rainfall was much less than the long-term mean for those months. Despite differences in the relationship between sapwood area and DBH for the two species, the relationship between daily total water use and DBH did not differ between species at any time. The same rates of water use for the two species across sampling periods arose through different mechanisms; the eucalypt underwent significant changes in leaf area whereas the Callitris displayed large changes in canopy conductance, such that tree water use remained the same for both species during the 2-year period. Canopy conductance and the decoupling coefficient were both significantly larger in winter than summer in both years. The generally low decoupling coefficient (0.05-0.34) reflects the low leaf area index of the site. When evaporative demand was small (winter), the degree of stomatal control was small and the decoupling coefficient was large. There was no relationship between tree size and either canopy conductance or the decoupling coefficient. Transpiration rates generally showed little variation between seasons and between species because of the balance between changes in leaf area, canopy conductance and evaporative demand. The occurrence of a significant drought did not appear to prevent these coordinated changes from occurring, with the result that convergence in water use was observed for these two disparate species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-108
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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