Plant-water relations and the fibre saturation point

Sandra L. Berry, Michael L. Roderick*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    132 Citations (Scopus)


    This review is about the behaviour of water in cell walls. The aim is to introduce to biologists the concept of the fibre saturation point (FSP), and the related research of material scientists and engineers on the thermodynamics and chemistry of water in timber and wood. In the review, we first summarise what the FSP is, why it is important and how the FSP is routinely used by engineers and material scientists to estimate the volume fractions of solid, liquid and gas phases in bulk timber. We then show that the FSP can be intuitively understood using equilibrium thermodynamics. That analysis shows that the FSP is based on the concept that a certain (and repeatable) amount of water is chemically bound to cellulose and other substances in wood. That water, sometimes called bound water, exists in a water-cell wall mixture. The noted physical chemist and wood scientist, A. J. Stamm, called this mixture a 'solid solution'. In timber, the 'solid solution' is considered a separate phase from adjacent water in either a pure liquid phase or a vapour phase. Following that, we examine the FSP and wood-water dynamics at the molecular and cellular level. Despite differences between timber and living trees, we conclude that the FSP-based framework long used by material scientists and engineers is likely to be useful to biologists.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-37
    Number of pages13
    JournalNew Phytologist
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


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