Here’s what a leaf looks like during a fatal attack of bubbles | Science News

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Here’s what a leaf looks like during a fatal attack of bubbles

Simple equipment triumphs in revealing how bubbles kill plant leaves during drought

1:00pm, May 5, 2016
lab images of embolisms in leaf veins

DEATH BY BUBBLE Mundane tools beat fancy X-ray setups in tracking how invading air bubbles kill leaves during drought, as seen in (clockwise from top) a Pteris fern, oak leaf and Adiantum fern.

A decent office scanner has beaten X-ray blasts from multimillion-dollar synchrotron setups in revealing how air bubbles kill plant leaves during drought.

Intricate fans and meshes of plant veins carrying water are “among the most important networks in biology,” says Timothy Brodribb of the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. When drought weakens the water tension in veins, air from plant tissues bubbles in, killing leaves much as bubble embolisms and clots in blood vessels can kill human tissue. As climate change and population growth increase risks of water shortage, Brodribb and other researchers are delving into the details of what makes some plants more resistant than others to drought.

The high energy of X-rays destroys delicate leaf tissue. So, based on a chat with microfluidics specialist Philippe Marmottant of the French National Center for Scientific Research, Brodribb tried repeatedly scanning a leaf with a light source below it to reveal

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