- Institut Européen de la Forêt Cultivée, Institut Européen de la Forêt Cultivée, Cestas, France
- Forest ecosystem services and forest conservation, Functional forest ecology , Silviculture and forest management, Wood properties and wood products
Tree growth forces and wood properties
Into the wood: the biomechanical history of trees revealed by their inner structureRecommended by Hervé Cochard based on reviews by Barry Gardiner and 1 anonymous reviewer
Trees are constantly subjected to mechanical stresses (gravity, wind, storms) but they have a remarkable ability to remain upright despite their great size. Straightness is also major characteristic that greatly determines the quality and market value of a log. For some species, maritime pine in particular, this is even a default that geneticists are trying to correct through dedicated breeding programs (Bartholomé et al. 2016). If trees are able to maintain a straight trunk, or to return to straightness after a growth accident, for example, it is thanks to an "engine" whose mechanisms are now better known (Moulia et al. 2021). This mechanism lies in the structure of the trunk itself and the ability of trees to produce cells and tissues that display different mechanical properties during their maturation. Some fibers will "pull" the trunk in one direction, known as tension wood, while others will « push » it in the opposite direction (compression wood). The posture control of a tree is therefore directly related to the growth process of the trees and the placement of this reaction wood at specific points in the trunk. The internal structure of the trunk will therefore retain the memory of these growth constraints throughout its life and, if we are able to read it, we can envisage reconstructing its history over the years. This source of information contained in tree rings is still largely unexplored. However, it can reveal insights into the evolution of the climate, or help foresters to select the most valuable trees. Sophisticated approaches exist to measure these growth forces in wood, but the major difficulty remains our ability to read the mechanical properties with simpler, more widely used methods. The article by Thibaut and Gril (2021) proposes such a methodology.
The approach used here is similar to the one used for other wood functions, such as sap transport: linking the mechanical function of wood to its structural properties. The transport capacity of wood is for example well explained by the distribution of vessel sizes. However, other interesting properties, such as resistance to cavitation, are only very weakly explained by the same anatomical characteristics. The authors, after analyzing the wood properties of many species, both tropical and temperate, conclude that growth forces can be deduced from variables that are relatively simple to measure, such as wood density or moduli of elasticity. The article provides a series of generic and more specific equations and relationships that allow these growth forces to be estimated.
I recommend this article to people who want to learn about the principles and concepts of tree biomechanics. I also recommend it to people who want to further explore the mechanical properties of trees and who will be able to characterize them thanks to the method proposed here by the authors.
Bartholomé J, Bink MC, Heerwaarden J van, Chancerel E, Boury C, Lesur I, Isik F, Bouffier L, Plomion C (2016) Linkage and Association Mapping for Two Major Traits Used in the Maritime Pine Breeding Program: Height Growth and Stem Straightness. PLOS ONE, 11, e0165323. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165323
Thibaut B, Gril J (2021) Tree growth forces and wood properties. HAL, hal-02984734, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer community in Forest and Wood Sciences. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02984734
Moulia B, Douady S, Hamant O (2021) Fluctuations shape plants through proprioception. Science, 372. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abc6868