Bamboo water transport comprises the pathway rhizomes-culms-leaves as well as transfer among culms via connected rhizomes. We assessed bamboo water transport in three big clumpy bamboo species by deuterium tracing. The tracer was injected into the base of established culms, and water samples were collected from leaves of the labeled culms and from neighboring culms. From the base of labeled culms to their leaves, the average tracer arrival time across species was 1.2 days, maximum tracer concentration was reached after 1.8 days, and the tracer residence time was 5.6 days. Sap velocities were high (13.9 m d−1
). Daily culm water use rates estimated by the tracer method versus rates measured by a calibrated sap flux method were highly correlated (R2
= 0.94), but the tracer estimates were about 70% higher. Elevated deuterium concentrations in studied neighbor culms point to deuterium transfer among culms, which may explain the difference in culm water use estimates. We found no differences in deuterium concentrations between neighbor-established and neighbor freshly sprouted culms of a given species. In two species, elevated concentrations in both neighbor-established and neighbor freshly sprouted culms were observed over an extended period. An applied mixing model suggests that five neighbor culms received labeled water. In contrast, for the third species, elevated concentrations in neighbor culms were only observed at the earliest sampling date after labeling. This could indicate that there was only short-term transfer and that the tracer was distributed more widely across the rhizome network. In conclusion, our deuterium tracing experiments point to water transfer among culms, but with species-specific differences.
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