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Assessment of Cambial Activity and Xylogenesis by Microsampling Tree Species: An Example at the Alpine Timberline

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Mechanisms of cell production and maturation and dynamics of xylem formation have been widely studied in trees in order to better characterize stem radial growth. Histological analyses have been used in this study to describe cambial activity and xylem cell differentiation in Larix decidua, Pinus cembra and Picea abies at the Alpine timberline. Wood microcores were collected weekly from April to October 2003 and cross sections prepared to distinguish xylem cells of the growing tree ring and to determine the number of cells in the cambial zone, radial cell enlargement, secondary wall thickening and lignification and the number of mature tracheids. The anatomical changes characterizing the phases of xylem cell production and differentiation during the year are described and discussed. All species showed the same trend of xylem formation. Three delayed bell-shaped curves and an S-shaped curve were observed for cambium, enlarging and wall thickening cells and mature cells, respectively. Cells divided in the cambial zones from April-May to August, depending on the species. From 100 to 130 days were required to complete cell differentiation. Tree-ring formation ended during September. The average periods spent on radial enlargement, and secondary cell wall thickening and lignification were estimated at 7–10 and 20–25 days, respectively.


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