Two tropical tree species, Acacia confusa and Leucaena leucocephala, were used to study the relationships among stomatal conductance, xylem ABA concentration and leaf water potential during a soil drying and rewatering cycle. Stomatal conductance of both A. confusa and L. leucocephala steadily decreased with the decreases in soil water content and pre-dawn leaf water potential. Upon rewatering, soil water content and pre-dawn leaf water potential rapidly returned to the control levels, whereas the reopening of stomata showed an obvious lag time. The length of this lag time was highly dependent not only upon the degree of water stress but also on plant species. The more severe the water stress, the longer the lag time. When A. confusa and L. leucocephala plants were exposed to the same degree of water stress (around −2.0 MPa in pre-dawn leaf water potential), the stomata of A. confusa reopened to the control level 6 days after rewatering. However, it took L. leucocephala about 14 days to reopen fully. A very similar response of leaf photosynthesis to soil water deficit was also observed for both species. Soil drying resulted in a significant increase in leaf and xylem ABA concentrations in both species. The more severe the water stress, the higher the leaf and xylem ABA concentrations. Both leaf ABA and xylem ABA returned to the control level following relief from water deficit and preceded the full recovery of stomata, suggesting that the lag phase of stomatal reopening was not controlled by leaf and/or xylem ABA. In contrast to drying the whole root system, drying half of the root system did not change the leaf water relations, but caused a significant increase in xylem ABA concentration, which could fully explain the decrease of stomatal conductance. After rewatering, the stomatal conductance of plants in which half of the roots were dried recovered more rapidly than those of whole-root dried plants, indicating that the leaf water deficit that occurred during the drying period was related to the post-stress stomatal inhibition. These results indicated that the decrease in stomatal conductance caused by water deficit was closely related to the increase in xylem ABA, but xylem ABA could not fully explain the reopening of stomata after relief of water stress, neither did the leaf ABA. Some unknown physiological and/or morphological processes in the guard cells may be related to the recovery process.
leaf water potentialsoil dryingstomatawater stressABA