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Tree Physiol. 2011 Sep;31(9):932-44. doi: 10.1093/treephys/tpr024. Epub 2011 May 25.

Interactive effects of elevated CO2 and drought on nocturnal water fluxes in Eucalyptus saligna.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.


Nocturnal water flux has been observed in trees under a variety of environmental conditions and can be a significant contributor to diel canopy water flux. Elevated atmospheric CO(2) (elevated [CO(2)]) can have an important effect on day-time plant water fluxes, but it is not known whether it also affects nocturnal water fluxes. We examined the effects of elevated [CO(2)] on nocturnal water flux of field-grown Eucalyptus saligna trees using sap flux through the tree stem expressed on a sapwood area (J(s)) and leaf area (E(t)) basis. After 19 months growth under well-watered conditions, drought was imposed by withholding water for 5 months in the summer, ending with a rain event that restored soil moisture. Reductions in J(s) and E(t) were observed during the severe drought period in the dry treatment under elevated [CO(2)], but not during moderate- and post-drought periods. Elevated [CO(2)] affected night-time sap flux density which included the stem recharge period, called 'total night flux' (19:00 to 05:00, J(s,r)), but not during the post-recharge period, which primarily consisted of canopy transpiration (23:00 to 05:00, J(s,c)). Elevated [CO(2)] wet (EW) trees exhibited higher J(s,r) than ambient [CO(2)] wet trees (AW) indicating greater water flux in elevated [CO(2)] under well-watered conditions. However, under drought conditions, elevated [CO(2)] dry (ED) trees exhibited significantly lower J(s,r) than ambient [CO(2)] dry trees (AD), indicating less water flux during stem recharge under elevated [CO(2)]. J(s,c) did not differ between ambient and elevated [CO(2)]. Vapour pressure deficit (D) was clearly the major influence on night-time sap flux. D was positively correlated with J(s,r) and had its greatest impact on J(s,r) at high D in ambient [CO(2)]. Our results suggest that elevated [CO(2)] may reduce night-time water flux in E. saligna when soil water content is low and D is high. While elevated [CO(2)] affected J(s,r), it did not affect day-time water flux in wet soil, suggesting that the responses of J(s,r) to environmental factors cannot be directly inferred from day-time patterns. Changes in J(s,r) are likely to influence pre-dawn leaf water potential, and plant responses to water stress. Nocturnal fluxes are clearly important for predicting effects of climate change on forest physiology and hydrology.

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