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Tree Physiol. 2007 Apr;27(4):577-84.

The ecological and functional correlates of nocturnal transpiration.

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Biology Department, McGill University, 1205 Dr. Penfield Avenue, Montreal, QC, H3A 1B1, Canada.


Contrary to the conventional theory of optimal stomatal control, there is substantial transpiration at night in many tree species, but the functional significance of this phenomenon remains uncertain. To investigate the possible roles of nocturnal transpiration, we compared and contrasted the correlations of both nocturnal and diurnal sap flow with a range of traits in 21 temperate deciduous tree species. These traits included soil water affinity, shade tolerance, cold hardiness, nitrogen concentration of tissues, minimum transpiration rate of excised leaves, growth rate, photosynthetic capacity, stomatal length and density, and the water potential and relative water content of leaves at the wilting point. Nocturnal sap flow was higher in species with higher leaf nitrogen concentrations, higher rates of extension growth and lower shade tolerances. Diurnal sap flow was higher in species with higher leaf nitrogen concentrations and photosynthetic capacities on a leaf area basis. Because leaf metabolism and dark respiration, in particular, are strongly related to leaf nitrogen concentration, our findings suggest that nocturnal transpiration functions to sustain carbohydrate export and other processes driven by dark respiration, and that this function is most important in fast- growing shade-intolerant tree species.

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