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Oecologia. 2009 Aug;161(1):15-24. doi: 10.1007/s00442-009-1364-3. Epub 2009 May 16.

The importance of nutritional regulation of plant water flux.

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Department of Botany, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa.


Transpiration is generally considered a wasteful but unavoidable consequence of photosynthesis, occurring because water is lost when stomata open for CO(2) uptake. Additionally, transpiration has been ascribed the functions of cooling leaves, driving root to shoot xylem transport and mass flow of nutrients through the soil to the rhizosphere. As a consequence of the link between nutrient mass flow and transpiration, nutrient availability, particularly that of NO(3)(-), partially regulates plant water flux. Nutrient regulation of transpiration may function through the concerted regulation of: (1) root hydraulic conductance through control of aquaporins by NO(3)(-), (2) shoot stomatal conductance (g(s)) through NO production, and (3) pH and phytohormone regulation of g(s). These mechanisms result in biphasic responses of water flux to NO(3)(-) availability. The consequent trade-off between water and nutrient flux has important implications for understanding plant distributions, for production of water use-efficient crops and for understanding the consequences of global-change-linked CO(2) suppression of transpiration for plant nutrient acquisition.

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