, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 137-149

Stomatal response to air humidity and its relation to stomatal density in a wide range of warm climate species

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Abstract

The gas exchange of 19 widely different warm climate species was observed at different leaf to air vapour pressure deficits (VPD). In all species stomata tended to close as VPD increased resulting in a decrease in net photosynthesis. The absolute reduction in leaf conductance per unit increase in VPD was greatest in those species which had a large leaf conductance at low VPDs. This would be expected even if stomata of all species were equally sensitive. However the percentage reduction in net photosynthesis (used as a measure of the relative sensitivity of stomata of the different species) was also closely related to the maximal conductance at low VPD. Similarily the relative sensitivity of stomata to changes in VPD was closely related to the weighted stomatal density or ‘crowding index’.

The hypothesis is presented that stomatal closure at different VPDs is related to peristomatal evaporation coupled with a high resistance between the epidermis and the mesophyll and low resistance between the stomatal apparatus and the epidermal cells. This hypothesis is consistent with the greater relative sensitivity of stomata on leaves with a high crowding index.

The results and the hypothesis are discussed in the light of selection, for optimal productivity under differing conditions of relative humidity and soil water availablility, by observation of stomatal density and distribution on the two sides of the leaf.

Visiting scientist, plant physiologist and research assitant of the Cassava Program