Resistance to Xylem Cavitation in Evergreen Ferns Correlates with Seasonal Dehydration Levels, Not Mechanical Strength

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Research Poster

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Ferns in the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California display a range of responses to severe drought. In this study, we further characterized the traits that may contribute to fern survival in a mediterranean-type climate. Due to anatomical differences between ferns and angiosperms, we predicted that ferns would exhibit no correlation between stipe mechanical strength and vulnerability to water stress-induced cavitation of stipe xylem. However, we predicted that ferns would show a correlation between seasonal water stress (minimum water potential) and cavitation resistance. Our results support these hypotheses; however, we must increase our sample size of evergreen fern species in order to confirm the relationship between minimum seasonal water potential and vulnerability to cavitation of stipe xylem.

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