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The largest part of forest biomass consists of wood. A global estimate of carbon stored in lignified tissues rises up to 400 Pg. Given these quantities, there is a growing interest of implementing wood research in diagnoses and evaluations of the carrying capacity of the global ecosystem and its forests. The question arises how disciplines like wood anatomy could respond to the increasing demands of a trait-based ecology, understood as a paradigmatic shift in addressing global changes. Dendrochronology and ecological wood anatomy, traditionally operating within the paradigm of species-based ecology, developed robust methods to address ecological questions. However, sampling strategies and database design will likely be different when wood traits are to be used to study individual tree performance, including responses to stress.

Aiming at optimally involving wood research in trait-based ecology, some trait concepts are analysed. The value of the IAWA standard lists of wood anatomical features as starting points for trait databases is recognized. A summary of the functionality of wood is given to inform the trait-research community of basic aspects of tree performance. The time dimension is highlighted, as well as the foundations for understanding bio-hydraulics, bio-mechanics and metabolism of wood and relevant traits.

Guidelines are given for sampling strategies and database concepts. Prospects of time axis construction and system integration are discussed, as well as the importance of standardizing for size.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Wood samples of representatives of Chassalia, Chazaliella, Gaertnera, Hymenocoleus, Pagamea and Psychotria are examined. The generic delimitation of these predominantly African Psychotrieae, which is mainly based on fruit morphology, is compared with wood anatomical variation patterns. Part of the variation observed is related to habit, e. g. wide vessels in the tree species Psychotria dermatophylla. Other features do have systematic significance, as shown by a cluster analysis of the data obtained. The genus pair Gaertnera/Pagamea differs obviously from the other genera and is wood anatomically clearly distinguished by the presence of fibre-tracheids and parenchyma bands. Chassalia, Chazaliella, Hymenocoleus and Psychotria have rather similar wood structure, although variation in vessel diameter, vessel arrangement, ray composition and axial parenchyma occurs. Several uncommon features are recorded: the presence of few to numerous openings in one oblique perforation plate, irregular reticulate perforation plates and multiple vessel-ray perforations with marked irregularity.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Recent insight in the phylogeny of the Rubiaceae, mainly based on macromolecular data, agrees better with wood anatomical diversity patterns than previous subdivisions of the family. The two main types of secondary xylem that occur in Rubiaceae show general consistency in their distribution within clades. Wood anatomical characters, especially the fibre type and axial parenchyma distribution, have indeed good taxonomic value in the family. Nevertheless, the application of wood anatomical data in Rubiaceae is more useful in confirming or negating already proposed relationships rather than postulating new affinities for problematic taxa. The wood characterised by fibre-tracheids (type I) is most common, while type II with septate libriform fibres is restricted to some tribes in all three subfamilies. Mineral inclusions in wood also provide valuable information with respect to systematic relationships.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

The value of growth rings as proxy data for climate reconstruction was studied in two miombo woodland species in eastern Africa. Growth rings, marked by terminal parenchyma, were visually detectable on carefully prepared stem discs of Isoberlinia tomentosa and Brachystegia spiciformis, dominant species of the miombo woodland in north-western Tanzania. However, the presence of multiple growth ring anomalies rendered cross-dating of the growth ring series between trees difficult. Cross-dating succeeded for eight out of thirteen samples for Isoberlinia tomentosa, but was unsuccessful for Brachystegia spiciformis. A mean series of 38 years was calculated for Isoberlinia tomentosa only. Monthly precipitation, monthly maximum air temperature and monthly SOI-value (Southern Oscillation Index) correlated significantly with tree ring widths of the mean series. These correlations are strong indicators of the annual character of the growth rings. They also suggest that Isoberlinia tomentosa provides an appropriate paleoclimatic record for dendroclimatic reconstruction.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal
In: IAWA Journal

Nature and periodicity of growth rings were investigated in Sonneratia apetala and Heritiera fomes, two Bangladeshi mangrove species. From both species we collected three stem discs in the natural forest reserve of the Sundarbans. In addition, three discs were sampled from plantation- grown S. apetala trees of known age. Sanded stem discs revealed distinct growth rings but no periodic fluctuations in vessel variables (vessel density, vessel diameter, vessel grouping), which were measured at high resolution along a transect from pith to bark. The number of growth rings in plantation-grown S. apetala trees corresponded with the documented tree age, hence strongly suggesting the growth rings to be annual. Within species, the annual nature of the rings was further supported by a good match between the tree-ring series. The similar mean curves of S. apetala and H. fomes, growing at the same site in the Sundarbans, pointed to the presence of an external factor influencing their growth. A combination of precipitation and temperature was suggested influencing substrate salinity and phenological events. It became evident that tree-ring research in combination with the analysis of vessel patterns is a valuable tool to further investigate the complex interactions between tree growth and site ecology in mangrove forests.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Intervessel pits are prominent wall structures involved in the water transport mechanism of land plants. The role of their intra-tree variation in the regulation of water transport, however, remains enigmatic. The hypothesis was tested that pit membrane thickness and degree of impregnation with phenolic substances increase along the stem axis with increasing tension on the water column as an adaptation to the higher risk for cavitation. Wood samples were taken at different heights from the mangrove tree Rhizophora mucronata growing at Gazi Bay (Kenya). Additional samples were taken along the stem radius to distinguish height from age effect, and from six other mangrove species growing in the same forest. Intervessel pit membranes were studied via transmission and scanning electron microscopy and cellular UV-microspectrophotometry. The hypothesis of pit membrane thickness and composition as a static adaptation to the hydrostatic conditions during vessel differentiation could be refuted. Instead, our findings point to a more dynamic pit membrane appearance with seasonal changes in thickness and chemical composition.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Identification of ancient charcoal fragments is a valuable tool in reconstructing past environments and determining natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and for understanding past cultures and societies. Although in Europe such studies are fairly straightforward, utilising charcoal records from the tropics is more complicated due to the species-richness of the natural vegetation. Comprehensive databases have greatly aided identification but often identification of charcoalified woods from the tropics relies on minute anatomical features that can be difficult to observe due to preservation or lack of abundance.

This article illustrates the relative potential of four imaging techniques and discusses how they can provide optimal visualisation of charcoal anatomy, such that specific difficulties encountered during charcoal examination can be evaluated and fine anatomical characters can be observed enabling high-level identification of charcoal (and wood) taxa. Specifically reflected Light Microscopy is often used to quickly group large numbers of charcoal fragments into charcoal types. Scanning Electron Microscopy and High-Throughput X-ray Computed Tomography are employed to observe fine anatomical detail. More recently X-ray Computed Tomography at very high resolution has proved successful for imaging hidden or ‘veiled’ anatomical features that cannot be detected on exposed surfaces but need three-dimensional volumetric imaging.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Wooden altarpieces are important features of European medieval material culture, especially of the Late Gothic Fine Arts from the 15th and 16th century. Many of them were carved in the Brabantine towns of Antwerp, Brussels and Mechelen in present-day Belgium. Although they were highly esteemed and exported all over Europe, little is known about their production process. In order to understand the context of the creation of the altarpieces, a detailed analysis of the wood has been completed to supplement and test historical documentation and art historical approaches. Tree-ring patterns and anatomical features of 209 wooden sculptures from collections of different museums were analyzed. Tree-ring analysis proved the 15th –16th century origin of the sculptures but also allowed a detailed technical characterization of the carversʼ basic material. The striking uniformity of the grain and the sawing pattern revealed that medieval woodcarvers preferred quarter sawn oak lumber, imported from the Baltic area. Stylistic and iconographic hypotheses concerning the current setting of several altarpieces could be founded, based on the wood anatomical and dendrochronological observations.

Intensive collaboration between wood biologists and art historians proved to be essential in order to reconstruct the creation process of carved wooden altarpieces.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Abstract

The typical black coloured ebony wood (Diospyros, Ebenaceae) is desired as a commercial timber because of its durable and aesthetic properties. Surprisingly, a comprehensive wood anatomical overview of the genus is lacking, making it impossible to fully grasp the diversity in microscopic anatomy and to distinguish between CITES protected species native to Madagascar and the rest. We present the largest microscopic wood anatomical reference database for ebony woods and reconstruct evolutionary patterns in the microscopic wood anatomy within the family level using an earlier generated molecular phylogeny. Wood samples from 246 Diospyros species are described based on standardised light microscope observations. For the ancestral state reconstruction, we selected eight wood anatomical characters from 88 Ebenaceae species (including 29 Malagasy Diospyros species) that were included in the most recently reconstructed family phylogeny. Within Diospyros, the localisation of prismatic crystals (either in axial parenchyma or in rays) shows the highest phylogenetic value and appears to have a biogeographical signal. The molecular defined subclade Diospyros clade IX can be clearly distinguished from other ebony woods by its storied structure. Across Ebenaceae, Lissocarpa is distinguishable from the remaining genera by the combined presence of scalariform and simple vessel perforation plates, and Royena typically has silica bodies instead of prismatic crystals. The local deposition of prismatic crystals and the presence of storied structure allow identifying ebony wood species at the subgeneric level, but species-level identification is not possible. In an attempt to improve the identification accuracy of the CITES protected Malagasy woods, we applied computer vision algorithms based on microscopic images from our reference database (microscopic slides from ca. 1000 Diospyros specimens) and performed chemical profiling based on DART TOFMS.

Open Access
In: IAWA Journal