Assessing the Thermal Dissipation Sap Flux Density Method for Monitoring Cold Season Water Transport in Seasonally Snow Covered Forests

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Tree Physiology

Publication Date







Productivity of conifers in seasonally snow-covered forests is high before and during snowmelt when environmental conditions are optimal for photosynthesis. Climate change is altering the timing of spring in many locations, and changes in the date of transition from winter dormancy can have large impacts on annual productivity. Sap flow methods provide a promising approach to monitor tree activity during the cold season and the winter–spring and fall–winter transitions. Although sap flow techniques have been widely used, cold season results are generally not reported. Here we examine the feasibility of using the Granier thermal dissipation (TD) sap flux density method to monitor transpiration and dormancy of evergreen conifers during the cold season. We conducted a laboratory experiment which demonstrated that the TD method reliably detects xylem water transport (when it occurs) both at near freezing temperature and at low flow rate, and that the sensors can withstand repeated freeze–thaw events. However, the dependence between sensor output and water transport rate in these experiments differed from the established TD relation. In field experiments, sensors installed in two Abies forests lasted through two winters and a summer with low failure. The baseline (no-flow) sensor output varied considerably with temperature during the cold season, and a new baseline algorithm was developed to accommodate this variation. The Abies forests differed in elevation (2070 and 2620 m), and there was a clear difference in timing of initiation and cessation of transpiration between them. We conclude that the TD method can be reliably used to examine water transport during cold periods with associated low flow conditions.

First Page


Last Page