• Hydraulic architecture;
  • leaf water potential;
  • plant hydraulic conductance;
  • stomatal regulation;
  • transpiration


The pathway for water movement from the soil through plants to the atmosphere can be represented by a series of liquid and vapour phase resistances. Stomatal regulation of vapour phase resistance balances transpiration with the efficiency of water supply to the leaves, avoiding leaf desiccation at one extreme, and unnecessary restriction of carbon dioxide uptake at the other. In addition to maintaining a long-term balance between vapour and liquid phase water transport resistances in plants, stomata are exquisitely sensitive to short-term, dynamic perturbations of liquid water transport. In balancing vapour and liquid phase water transport, stomata do not seem to distinguish among potential sources of variation in the apparent efficiency of delivery of water per guard cell complex. Therefore, an apparent soil-to-leaf hydraulic conductance based on relationships between liquid water fluxes and driving forces in situ seems to be the most versatile for interpretation of stomatal regulatory behaviour that achieves relative homeostasis of leaf water status in intact plants. Components of dynamic variation in apparent hydraulic conductance in intact plants include, exchange of water between the transpiration stream and internal storage compartments via capacitive discharge and recharge, cavitation and its reversal, temperature-induced changes in the viscosity of water, direct effects of xylem sap composition on xylem hydraulic properties, and endogenous and environmentally induced variation in the activity of membrane water channels in the hydraulic pathway. Stomatal responses to humidity must also be considered in interpreting co-ordination of vapour and liquid phase water transport because homeostasis of bulk leaf water status can only be achieved through regulation of the actual transpirational flux. Results of studies conducted with multiple species point to considerable convergence with regard to co-ordination of stomatal and hydraulic properties. Because stomata apparently sense and respond to integrated and dynamic soil-to-leaf water transport properties, studies involving intact plants under both natural and controlled conditions are likely to yield the most useful new insights concerning stomatal co-ordination of transpiration with soil and plant hydraulic properties.