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Relatore:  Prof.  Amos Maritan - Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Padova
Medaglia Matteucci 2021 dellAccademia Nazionale delle Scienze
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Forests represent one of the most complex systems with a high degree of structural and functional diversity.Water transport through plants is a key driver of the carbon and other biogeochemical cycles and is a crucial link in plant adaptation to climate and vegetation response to climate change. First, we discuss the shape of the xylems, the conduits responsible for transporting water to the leaves: wider conduits transport more water but are more vulnerable to conduction-blocking gas embolisms, and cost more for a plant to build, a tension necessarily shaping xylem conduit diameters along plant stems. A solution based on Pareto multi-optimization leads to the prediction of a universal shape of xylems which will be compared with data spanning terrestrial plant orders, life forms, habitats, and sizes.
In the second part we will present an optimization principle leading to the prediction of the total evapotranspiration of water in single plants and its consequences in the tree size distribution in natural plant communities, an issue of great importance for carbon storage. Predictions are tested in forests at various latitudes and deviations from the predictions are used to quantify degrees of disturbances.


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