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Stomatal and photosynthetic responses during sun/shade transitions in subalpine plants: influence on water use efficiency


Different response patterns in net photosynthesis (A) leaf conductance (g) and water use efficiency (WUE= a/transpiration) in three subalpine plants occurred during experimental sun/shade transitions that simulated natural cloudcover. In Frasera speciosa Dougl., a large-leaved herb characteristic of open sites, g was relatively insensitive to transitions in irradiance and variations in A. However, large decreases in leaf temperature resulted in reduced transpiration during shade intervals and relatively constant WUE throughout the experimental sun/shade regime. In the understory herb, Arnica cordifolia Hook., patterns of A and g were similar during sun/shade transitions, but WUE was substantially reduced compared to steady-state levels. A third, somewhat intermediate pattern of A, g, and WUE was found in Artemisia tridentata L., an open site shrub. Higher intercellular CO2 values in A. tridentata suggested that internal, cellular limitations to A were high relative to stomatal limitations in this shrub when compared to the herbaceous species.

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Correspondence to A. K. Knapp.

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Knapp, A.K., Smith, W.K. Stomatal and photosynthetic responses during sun/shade transitions in subalpine plants: influence on water use efficiency. Oecologia 74, 62–67 (1987).

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Key words

  • Cloudcover
  • Photosynthesis
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Subalpine
  • Water use efficiency