, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 227-234

Influence of leaf size, orientation, and arrangement on temperature and transpiration in three high-elevation, large-leafed herbs

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Summary

The temperature and water relations of the largleafed, high-elevation species Frasera speciosa, Balsamorhiza sagittata, and Rumex densiflorus were evaluated in the Medicine Bow Mountains of southeast Wyoming (USA) to determine the influence of leaf size, orientation, and arrangement on transpiration. These species characteristically have low minimum stomatal resistances (<60 s m-1) and high maximum transpiration rates (>260 mg m-2s-1 for F. speciosa). Field measurements of leaf and microclimatic parameters were incorporated into a computer simulation using standard energy balance equations which predicted leaf temperature (T leaf) and transpiration for various leaf sizes. Whole-plant transpiration during a day was simulated using field measurements for plants with natural leaf sizes and compared to transpiration rates simulated for plants having identical, but hypothetically smaller (0.5 cm) leaves during a clear day and a typically cloudy day. Although clear-day transpiration for F. speciosa plants with natural size leaves was only 2.0% less per unit leaf area than that predicted for plants with much smaller leaves, daily transpiration of B. sagittata and R. densiflorus plants with natural leaf sizes was 16.1% and 21.1% less, respectively. The predicted influence of a larger leaf size on transpiration for the cloudy day was similar to clear-day results except that F. speciosa had much greater decreases in transpiration (12.7%). The different influences of leaf size on transpiration between the three species was primarily due to major differences in leaf absorptance to solar radiation, orientation, and arrangement which caused large differences in T leaf. Also, simulated increases in leaf size above natural sizes measured in the field resulted in only small additional decreases in predicted transpiration, indicating a leaf size that was nearly optimal for reducing transpiration. These results are discussed in terms of the possible evolution of a larger leaf size in combination with specific leaf absorptances, orientations and arrangements which could act to reduce transpiration for species growing in short-season habitats where the requirement for rapid carbon fixation might necessitate low stomatal resistances.