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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A stomatal safety-efficiency trade-off constrains responses to leaf dehydration.

  • Author(s): Henry, Christian
  • John, Grace P
  • Pan, Ruihua
  • Bartlett, Megan K
  • Fletcher, Leila R
  • Scoffoni, Christine
  • Sack, Lawren
  • et al.

Stomata, the microvalves on leaf surfaces, exert major influences across scales, from plant growth and productivity to global carbon and water cycling. Stomatal opening enables leaf photosynthesis, and plant growth and water use, whereas plant survival of drought depends on stomatal closure. Here we report that stomatal function is constrained by a safety-efficiency trade-off, such that species with greater stomatal conductance under high water availability (gmax) show greater sensitivity to closure during leaf dehydration, i.e., a higher leaf water potential at which stomatal conductance is reduced by 50% (Ψgs50). The gmax - Ψgs50 trade-off and its mechanistic basis is supported by experiments on leaves of California woody species, and in analyses of previous studies of the responses of diverse flowering plant species around the world. Linking the two fundamental key roles of stomata-the enabling of gas exchange, and the first defense against drought-this trade-off constrains the rates of water use and the drought sensitivity of leaves, with potential impacts on ecosystems.

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