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Tree Physiol. 1998 Apr;18(4):211-222.

Dynamics of change in stomatal response and water status of Picea abies during a persistent drought period: a contribution to the traditional view of plant water relations.

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Lehrstuhl für Forstbotanik, Universität München, Am Hochanger 13, D-85354 Freising, Germany.


Four experiments on the simulation of a persistent drought period were carried out with cloned Picea abies (L.) Karst. trees: two in the field under varying weather conditions and two in a climate chamber under variously manipulated humidity conditions. Patterns of diurnal dynamics in gas exchange rates and water potential were monitored and analyzed. The first phase of the drought was characterized by relatively high daily maxima for photosynthesis and transpiration. With decreasing humidity during the day, the values dropped steeply, and the declines were larger and occurred earlier on each passing day of the drought period. When soil water potential was lower than -2000 hPa, maximum stomatal aperture was greatly reduced despite a humid atmosphere. Under these conditions, rates of photosynthesis and transpiration decreased less steeply from the daily maxima and differences between maxima and minima were small. In the field, the daily sums of transpiration and photosynthesis were more dependent on atmospheric conditions than on soil water potential. In the growth chamber experiments, the daily sums of transpiration and photosynthesis decreased continuously as the soil dried, at first steeply until a soil water potential of -2000 hPa was reached, then slowly. Predawn water potential values fluctuated under field conditions, but tended to decrease with time, whereas needle osmotic potential increased slightly. Because relative humidities did not reach 100% in the growth chamber, predawn water potentials of plants in the growth chamber were never higher than -1.0 MPa although the soil was saturated. In the experiment with a high average air humidity during the daily stress period, relatively high predawn water potentials were maintained until lower soil water potentials of -8000 hPa were reached. Results were used to assess the importance of evaporative demand versus soil drying on stomatal responses within the context of current concepts of plant water relations. The observed trends in diurnal dynamics can be explained solely by the interdependency of leaf conductance and water potential. Stomata react directly to the ratio of water supply to demand. The central role of peristomatal transpiration in this system is emphasized.

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