Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 7, pp 1123–1134 | Cite as

Water status, drought responses, and growth of Prosopis flexuosa trees with different access to the water table in a warm South American desert

  • Carla V. GiordanoEmail author
  • Aranzazú Guevara
  • Hernán E. Boccalandro
  • Carmen Sartor
  • Pablo E. Villagra


Prosopis flexuosa trees dominate woodlands in the Central Monte Desert (Mendoza, Argentina), with <200 mm rainfall, exploiting the water table recharged by Andean rivers, and also growing in dunes with no access to the water table. Prosopis woodlands were extensively logged during development of the agricultural oasis, and surface and groundwater irrigation could lower the depth of the water table in the future. We evaluated tree populations with decreasing access to the water table: valley adult trees, valley saplings, and dune adult trees, in order to assess their ecophysiological response to water table accessibility. High and seasonally stable pre-dawn leaf water potentials (−2.2 ± 0.2 to −1.2 ± 0.07 MPa) indicated that valley adults utilize larger and more stable water reservoirs than valley saplings and dune adults (−3.8 ± 0.3 to −1.3 ± 0.07 MPa), with higher midday leaf conductance to water vapor (valley adults ~250; dune adults <60 mmol m−2 s−1), potentially higher CO2 uptake, and increased radial growth rate (valley adults 4.1 ± 0.07; dune adults 2.9 ± 0.02 mm year−1). Trees with poor access to the water table exhibited drought tolerance responses such as midday stomata closure, leaflet closure, and osmotic adjustment. Stomata density decreased in response to drought when leaf expansion was restricted. The combination of phreatophytism and drought tolerance would enlarge P. flexuosa habitats and buffer populations against changes in rainfall dynamics and water table depth.


Dunes Groundwater Monte Phreatophytes 



We thank the Dirección de Recursos Naturales Renovables of Mendoza province for their permission to work in Telteca Natural Reserve. We are grateful to Silvana Piccone and ‘Husky’ park rangers, Hugo Debandi, Julieta Aranibar, Diego Odales, Victoria Salomón, and Ana Antúnez for field assistance; to Mariano Morales and Lidio López for help with dendrochronology; to Mercedes Fucili for help in stomata counting; to Bruno Cavagnaro, Mariana Combina, and Walter Manucha for porometer, microscope and osmometer facilities, respectively; to Nelly Horak for English correction; and to anonymous reviewers for suggestions on how to improve an earlier versions of the manuscript. We are thankful to Mariano, Chicho, Valeria, and Cecilia for their warm hospitality. This research was supported by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica PICT 2007-01222 to PEV and PICT 2007-00492 to HEB.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PPT 89 kb)
11258_2010_9892_MOESM2_ESM.ppt (66 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PPT 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla V. Giordano
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aranzazú Guevara
    • 1
  • Hernán E. Boccalandro
    • 2
    • 3
  • Carmen Sartor
    • 4
  • Pablo E. Villagra
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones en Zonas Áridas (IADIZA)Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CCT-Mendoza CONICET)MendozaArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto de Biología Agrícola de Mendoza (IBAM)Universidad Nacional de Cuyo-CONICETMendozaArgentina
  3. 3.Instituto de Ciencias BásicasUniversidad Nacional de Cuyo. Ciudad UniversitariaMendozaArgentina
  4. 4.Facultad de Ciencias AgrariasUniversidad Nacional de CuyoMendozaArgentina
  5. 5.Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones en Nivología, Glaciología y Ciencias Ambientales (IANIGLA)Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CCT-Mendoza CONICET)MendozaArgentina

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