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The effect of vapour pressure deficit on stomatal conductance, sap pH and leaf-specific hydraulic conductance in Eucalyptus globulus clones grown under two watering regimes

Hernandez, Maria Jose, Montes, Fernando, Ruiz, Federico, Lopez, Gustavo, Pita, Pilar
Annals of botany 2016 v.117 no.6 pp. 1063-1071
Eucalyptus globulus, biomass, climate change, clones, evapotranspiration, intraspecific variation, leaf area, pH, plant adaptation, plantations, sap, soil water, stomata, stomatal conductance, temperature, vapor pressure deficit, water potential, water stress, Spain
Background and Aims Stomatal conductance has long been considered of key interest in the study of plant adaptation to water stress. The expected increase in extreme meteorological events under a climate change scenario may compromise survival in Eucalyptus globulus plantations established in south-western Spain. We investigated to what extent changes in stomatal conductance in response to high vapour pressure deficits and water shortage are mediated by hydraulic and chemical signals in greenhouse-grown E. globulus clones. Methods Rooted cuttings were grown in pots and submitted to two watering regimes. Stomatal conductance, shoot water potential, sap pH and hydraulic conductance were measured consecutively in each plant over 4 weeks under vapour pressure deficits ranging 0·42 to 2·25 kPa. Evapotranspiration, growth in leaf area and shoot biomass were also determined. Key Results There was a significant effect of both clone and watering regime in stomatal conductance and leaf-specific hydraulic conductance, but not in sap pH. Sap pH decreased as water potential and stomatal conductance decreased under increasing vapour pressure deficit. There was no significant relationship between stomatal conductance and leaf-specific hydraulic conductance. Stomata closure precluded shoot water potential from falling below −1·8 MPa. The percentage loss of hydraulic conductance ranged from 40 to 85 %. The highest and lowest leaf-specific hydraulic conductances were measured in clones from the same half-sib families. Water shortage reduced growth and evapotranspiration, decreases in evapotranspiration ranging from 14 to 32 % in the five clones tested. Conclusions Changes in sap pH seemed to be a response to changes in atmospheric conditions rather than soil water in the species. Stomata closed after a considerable amount of hydraulic conductance was lost, although intraspecific differences in leaf-specific hydraulic conductance suggest the possibility of selection for improved productivity under water-limiting conditions combined with high temperatures in the early stages of growth.