Wood structure explained by complex spatial source-sink interactions

Andrew D. Friend

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Received Date: 29th April 20

Wood is a remarkable material. It is responsible for the sequestration of significant anthropogenic CO2 (Pan et al., 2011), aids understanding of past climates (Mann et al., 1998), has unique acoustic, thermal, and strength properties, and is an endlessly renewable source of energy (Plomion et al., 2001). However, we lack a general integrated understanding of how its structure is created. A theoretical framework of wood formation is presented here that explains a diverse range of poorly understood observations, including: (i) the anatomy of growth rings, with a transition from low-density earlywood to high-density latewood; (ii) the high sensitivity of latewood density to temperature; (iii) cell-size regulation; and (iv) relationships between growth and temperature. These features arise from interactions in time and space between the production of cells, the dynamics of developmental zones, and the supply of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate distribution is critical for the final density profile, challenging current theory which emphasises compensation between the rates and durations of cell enlargement and wall thickening. These findings have implications for our understanding of how growth responds to environmental variability and the interpretation of tree rings as proxies of past climates. In addition, they provide a framework for the incorporation of explicit growth processes into models, such as those used to predict the role of vegetation in the future global carbon cycle. Finally, divergent responses in volume and mass with increasing temperature suggest caution in interpreting observations based on volume alone.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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