, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 63–77 | Cite as

Contrasting photosynthetic responses to ambient air pollution between the urban shrub Rhododendron × pulchrum and urban tall tree Ginkgo biloba in Kyoto city: stomatal and leaf mesophyll morpho-anatomies are key traits

  • Takashi Kiyomizu
  • Saya Yamagishi
  • Atsushi Kume
  • Yuko T. HanbaEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Rhododendron × pulchrum avoided air pollution by adjusting its stomatal density, while Ginkgo biloba tolerated air pollution via a small stomatal density and high mesophyll thickness.


Information on the physiological mechanisms underlying species-specific photosynthetic responses to ambient air pollution is essential for enhancing the multiple services provided by urban trees. We conducted an on-site investigation of Rhododendron × pulchrum and Ginkgo biloba, which are the most common shrub and tall roadside tree used in Japan, in order to clarify their photosynthetic responses at sites with different air pollution levels in Kyoto city, Japan. The shrub tree R. × pulchrum and tall tree G. biloba exhibited contrasting responses to air pollution mainly from automobile exhaust gas. R. × pulchrum had a lower photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance at high-pollution sites than at low-pollution sites, while no reductions were observed at high-pollution sites for G. biloba. The stomatal density of R. × pulchrum negatively correlated with atmospheric nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2) concentrations. R. × pulchrum avoided the effects of air pollution by reducing stomatal density at high-pollution sites at the expense of reducing CO2 uptake, while G. biloba appeared to have the ability to tolerate high air pollution levels by reducing the pollution load per mesophyll cell surface area with a low stomatal density and large mesophyll thickness. In conclusion, R. × pulchrum and G. biloba both acclimate to urban environments through an avoidance or tolerance strategy for air pollution by regulating stomatal and/or mesophyll morphologies.


Stomatal conductance Stomatal density Mesophyll anatomy Nitrogen oxide Vehicle emissions 



This work was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (15K00566), the Sumitomo Foundation (103230), Adaptable & Seamless Technology Transfer Program through Target-driven R&D (AS262Z01258N), and Discretionary expense of the President of Kyoto Institute of Technology. The leaf stable carbon isotope ratio was measured at the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University and Research Institute for Humanity and Nature. We appreciate Drs. Ichiro Tayasu and Riyo Hirasawa for supporting the isotope measurements. We thank Drs Jiro Tatsumi and Etsu Yamada for supporting our research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

468_2018_1759_MOESM1_ESM.docx (50 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 49 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takashi Kiyomizu
    • 1
  • Saya Yamagishi
    • 1
  • Atsushi Kume
    • 2
  • Yuko T. Hanba
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Kyoto Institute of TechnologyKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of AgricultureKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan

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