One adaptation of plants to cope with drought or frost stress is to develop wood that is able to withstand the formation and distribution of air bubbles (emboli) in its water conducting xylem cells under negative pressure. The ultrastructure of interconduit pits strongly affects drought-induced embolism resistance, but also mechanical properties of the xylem are involved. The first experimental evidence for a lower embolism resistance in stems of herbaceous plants compared to stems of their secondarily woody descendants further supports this mechanical-functional trade-off. An integrative approach combining (ultra)structural observations of the xylem, safetyefficiency aspects of the hydraulic pipeline, and xylem–phloem interactions will shed more light on the multiple adaptive strategies of embolism resistance in plants.

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Current Opinion in Plant Biology
Staff publications

Lens, F, Tixier, A, Cochard, H, Sperry, J.S, Jansen, S, & Herbette, S. (2013). Embolism resistance as a key mechanism to understand adaptive plant strategies. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 16, 287–292. doi:10.1016/j.pbi.2013.02.005