, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 338–342 | Cite as

The responses of stomata and leaf gas exchange to vapour pressure deficits and soil water content

I. Species comparisons at high soil water contents
  • Neil C. Turner
  • E.-D. Schulze
  • T. Gollan
Original Papers


The responses of photosynthesis, transpiration and leaf conductance to changes in vapour pressure deficit were followed in well-watered plants of the herbaceous species, Helianthus annuus, Helianthus nuttallii, Pisum sativum and Vigna unguiculata, and in the woody species having either sclerophyllous leaves, Arbutus unedo, Nerium oleander and Pistacia vera, or mesomorphic leaves, Corylus avellana, Gossypium hirsutum and Prunus dulcis. When the vapour pressure deficit of the air around a single leaf in a cuvette was varied from 10 to 30 Pa kPa-1 in 5 Pa kPa-1 steps, while holding the remainder of the plant at a vapour presure deficit of 10 Pa kPa-1, the leaf conductance and net photosynthetic rate of the leaf decreased in all species. The rate of transpiration increased initially with increase in vapour pressure deficit in all species, but in several species a maximum transpiration rate was observed at 20 to 25 Pa kPa-1. Concurrent measurements of the leaf water potential by in situ psychrometry showed that an increase in the vapour pressure deficit decreased the leaf water potential in all species. The decrease was greatest in woody species, and least in herbaceous species. When the vapour pressure deficit around the remainder of the plant was increased while the leaf in the cuvette was exposed to a low and constant vapour pressure deficit, similar responses in both degree and magnitude in the rates of transpiration and leaf conductance were observed in the remainder of the plant as those occurring when the vapour pressure deficit around the single leaf was varied. Increasing the external vapour pressure deficit lowered the water potential of the leaf in the cuvette in the woody species and induced a decrease in leaf conductance in some, but not all, speies. The decrease in leaf conductance with decreasing water potential was greater in the woody species when the vapour pressure deficit was increased than when it remained low and constant, indicating that changing the leaf-to-air vapour pressure difference had a direct effect on the stomata in these species. The low hydraulic resistance and maintenance of a high leaf water potential precluded such an analysis in the herbaceous species. We conclude that at least in the woody species studied, an increase in the vapour pressure deficit around a leaf will decrease leaf gas exchange through a direct effect on the leaf epidermis and sometimes additionally through a lowering of the mesophyll water potential.


Woody Species Vapour Pressure Deficit Leaf Water Potential Herbaceous Species Helianthus Annuus 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil C. Turner
    • 1
  • E.-D. Schulze
    • 2
  • T. Gollan
    • 2
  1. 1.Dryland Crops and Soils Research ProgramCSIROWembleyAustralia
  2. 2.Lehrstuhl für PflanzenökologieUniverität BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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