, Volume 171, Issue 1, pp 71–82 | Cite as

Co-ordination of physiological and morphological responses of stomata to elevated [CO2] in vascular plants

  • Matthew Haworth
  • Caroline Elliott-Kingston
  • Jennifer C. McElwain
Physiological ecology - Original research


Plant stomata display a wide range of short-term behavioural and long-term morphological responses to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]). The diversity of responses suggests that plants may have different strategies for controlling gas exchange, yet it is not known whether these strategies are co-ordinated in some way. Here, we test the hypothesis that there is co-ordination of physiological (via aperture change) and morphological (via stomatal density change) control of gas exchange by plants. We examined the response of stomatal conductance (G s) to instantaneous changes in external [CO2] (C a) in an evolutionary cross-section of vascular plants grown in atmospheres of elevated [CO2] (1,500 ppm) and sub-ambient [O2] (13.0 %) compared to control conditions (380 ppm CO2, 20.9 % O2). We found that active control of stomatal aperture to [CO2] above current ambient levels was not restricted to angiosperms, occurring in the gymnosperms Lepidozamia peroffskyana and Nageia nagi. The angiosperm species analysed appeared to possess a greater respiratory demand for stomatal movement than gymnosperm species displaying active stomatal control. Those species with little or no control of stomatal aperture (termed passive) to C a were more likely to exhibit a reduction in stomatal density than species with active stomatal control when grown in atmospheres of elevated [CO2]. The relationship between the degree of stomatal aperture control to C a above ambient and the extent of any reduction in stomatal density may suggest the co-ordination of physiological and morphological responses of stomata to [CO2] in the optimisation of water use efficiency. This trade-off between stomatal control strategies may have developed due to selective pressures exerted by the costs associated with passive and active stomatal control.


Carbon dioxide Conifer Angiosperm evolution Stomatal conductance Stomatal density Stomatal evolution 



We thank the following for scientific discussion and technical assistance: Antonio Raschi (CNR-IBIMET), Angela Gallagher (VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands), Annmarie Fitzgerald, Ray O’Haire, Liam Kavanagh, Bredagh Moran (UCD, Ireland), Aidan Blake, Kelly Krause, Matthew Gilroy, Craig Berg (CONVIRON, Canada), Michael Doyle, Chris Bergweiler (PP-Systems, USA). The comments of two anonymous reviewers significantly improved this manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge funding from an EU Marie Curie Excellence Grant (MEXT-CT-2006-042531), a SFI grant (08/RFP/EOB1131), an IRCSET Embark scholarship (R10679) and an EU Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (PEA-IEF-2010-275626).

Supplementary material

442_2012_2406_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (13.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 13424 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Haworth
    • 1
  • Caroline Elliott-Kingston
    • 2
  • Jennifer C. McElwain
    • 2
  1. 1.CNRIstituto di Biometeorologia (IBIMET)FlorenceItaly
  2. 2.School of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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