Relationship between Dehydration Tolerance of California Ferns and the Mechanical Strength of their Stipes

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Research Poster

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In recent years, experts in plant physiology have begun to explore the functional traits of ferns, especially in regards to their tissue-water relations. However, to our knowledge, no scientist had yet examined the relationship between fern biomechanics and physiology. We examined the mechanical properties of fern stipes (stems) and attempted to relate those properties to ecological and physiological traits. Based on our knowledge of fern anatomy, we hypothesized that stipe mechanical strength would not correlate with water-stress resistance as it does in seed-bearing plants.

We assessed mechanical strength using Modulus of Elasticity (MOE) and tissue-water relations using pressure-volume curves. Water-stress resistance was determined by measuring osmotic potential at the turgor loss point, soil moisture, minimum seasonal water potential, and water potential at 50% loss of conductivity. All data supported our hypothesis that stipe mechanical strength does not correlate with water-stress resistance in ferns.

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