A relationship between humidity response, growth form and photosynthetic operating point in C3 plants

Authors

  • P. J. Franks,

    1. Environmental Biology Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, GPO Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia and
    2. Department of Tropical Plant Sciences, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns 4870, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • G. D. Farquhar

    1. Environmental Biology Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University, GPO Box 475, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia and
    Search for more papers by this author

  • 2Present address: Department of Tropical Plant Sciences, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns 4870, Australia.

Correspondence: P. J.Franks; E-mail: peter.franks@jcu.edu.au

ABSTRACT

Gas exchange experiments were performed with 13 plant species that differ from each other in growth-form and natural habitat. These comprised three herbaceous species, two ferns, two temperate deciduous trees, five rainforest trees and one liana from wet tropical forest. The aims were to investigate whether plants of similar growth-form and from similar habitats tended to respond similarly to a change in leaf-to-air vapour pressure difference (VPD), and to compare their ratio of intercellular to ambient partial pressures of CO2 for given conditions. Leaves were subjected to a step change in VPD and the initial and final steady rates of transpiration were used to calculate an index of sensitivity, φ, which enabled comparison of species. The results suggest that species of similar growth-form and habitat respond similarly to increasing VPD, with the temperate deciduous trees undergoing a greater reduction in stomatal conductance than the herbaceous plants in well-watered soil. Also, for these experimental conditions, the ratio of leaf internal to ambient CO2 partial pressure (pi/pa) was positively correlated with both CO2 assimilation rate and stomatal insensitivity to VPD, across the 13 species. The results are discussed in terms of growth strategies and possible advantages and limitations of hydraulic systems in different plants.

Ancillary