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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Maximum heat ratio: bi-directional method for fast and slow sap flow measurements

Lopez, Jose Gutierrez; Pypker, Thomas; Licata, Julian; Burgess, Stephen S. O.; Asbjornsen, Heidi


Background As sap flow research expands, new challenges such as fast sap flows or flows co-occurring with freeze/thaw cycles appear, which are not easily addressed with existing methods. In order to address these new challenges, sap flow methods capable of measuring bidirectional, high and slow sap flux densities (F-d, cm(3) cm(-2) h(-1)), thermal properties and stem water content with minimum sensitivity to stem temperature are required. Purpose In this study we assessed the performance of a new low-power ratio-based algorithm, the maximum heat ratio (MHR) method, and compare it with the widely known heat ratio (HR) method using a cut-tree study to test it under high flows using Eucalyptus grandis trees, and a freeze/thaw experiment using Acer saccharum trunks to test its response to fast changing stem temperatures that result in freeze/thaw cycles. Results Our results indicate that MHR and HR had a strong (R-2 = 0.90) linear relationship within a F-d range of 0-45 cm(3) cm(-2) h(-1). Using the MHR algorithm, we were able to estimate wood thermal properties and water content, while extending the measuring range of HR to approximately 0-130 (cm(3) cm(-2) h(-1)). In our freeze/thaw experiment, the main discrepancy between MHR and HR was observed during freezing, where HR had consistently lower F-d (up to 10 cm(3) cm(-2) h(-1)), with respect to MHR. However, both algorithms identified similar zero flows. Conclusion Consequently, MHR can be an easy-to-implement alternative algorithm/method capable of handling extreme climatic conditions, which can also run simultaneously with HR.


Maximum heat ratio; Thermal diffusivity; Volumetric water content; Freeze; thaw cycles; Volumetric heat capacity

Published in

Plant and Soil
2021, volume: 469, number: 1, pages: 503-523
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
University of New Hampshire
Pypker, Thomas
Thompson Rivers University
Licata, Julian
Bemidji State University
Burgess, Stephen S. O.
University of Western Australia
Asbjornsen, Heidi
University of New Hampshire

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)