Michael Knoblauch, biological sciences
Michael Knoblauch

Scientists have long assumed that the sugars that nourish trees are pushed by water pressure from the leaves where they are created to the stems and roots where they are needed. But how do taller accomplish that task, given the longer distances the nutrients must travel and the greater force that seems needed to them?

A nine-member team of scientists, including Michael Knoblauch, a plant cell biologist from Washington State University, discovered an answer with a recent study whose findings could also help end a longstanding debate over the dynamics involved in sugar transport in trees. The study, whose results are detailed in the Dec. 4 issue of the journal Nature Plants, determined that the hydraulic resistance to moving sugar-rich sap downward from the leaves does not increase with the height of the tree as much as would be expected, because of physical features in the transport system.

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