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Plant Physiol. 1996 May;111(1):179-185.

Dynamics of Changing Intercellular CO2 Concentration (ci) during Drought and Determination of Minimum Functional ci.

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  • 1Department of Plant Science, University of Tasmania, P.O. Box 252C, Tasmania 7001, Australia.


Nine conifer species with narrow (<5 mm), single-veined leaves were selected for the purpose of examining changes in intercellular CO2 concentration (ci) during drought. Due to the leaf morphology of the study plants, the confounding effects of nonhomogenous photosynthesis common to most reticulate-veined angiosperms were largely avoided, giving a clear picture of ci dynamics under increasing drought. A characteristic biphasic response was observed in all species, with an initial stomatal control phase resulting in a substantial reduction in ci as stomatal conductance (gs) decreased. As gs reached low levels, a strong nonstomatal limitation phase was observed, causing ci to increase as gs approached a minimum. This nonstomatal phase was linked to a concomitant rapid decrease in the fluorescence parameter quantum efficiency, indicating the onset of nonreversible photoinhibition. The ratio of internal to atmospheric CO2 concentration (ci/ca) decreased from values of between 0.68 and 0.57 in undroughted plants to a minimum, (ci/ca)min, which was well defined in each species, ranging from 0.10 in Actinostrobus acuminatus to 0.36 in Acmopyle pancheri. A high correlation was found to exist between (ci/ca)min and leaf water potential measured at (ci/ca)min. Species developing high maximum intrinsic water use efficiencies (low [ci/ca]min), such as A. acuminatus, did so at lower leaf water potentials (-4.5 MPa) than more mesic species (-1.75 MPa for A. pancheri). It is concluded that in the absence of patchy stomatal closure, (ci/ca)min gives a good representation of the drought tolerance of foliage.

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