Temporal and Spatial Variability of Plant Water Status and Leaf Gas Exchange

  • M. Veste
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 200)

Arid and semi-arid regions are characterised by low rainfall as well as high potential and actual evaporative demand. Consequentially, water is the major limiting factor for plant growth and productivity. Besides precipitation, hydrological soil properties are most important for soil water availability in the Nizzana sand dunes (Chap. 18, this volume). The vegetation pattern in these sand dunes reflects the spatial differences in soil water availability (Chap. 26, this volume). Detection of spatial heterogeneity requires a high number of soil sensors to evaluate water availability on the landscape level. Unfortunately, the use of tensiometers is limited mainly by excessively low soil water contents in the upper layers. As alternative, phanerophytes are good indicators of water resources in these heterogeneous ecosystems. Desert perennials develop extensive root systems and are able to exploit soil water from deeper horizons (Evenari et al. 1982; Adar et al. 1995; Batanouny 2001; Groom 2003, 2004). Especially shrubs and trees depend on sufficient water resources during the entire year. Water uptake by roots depends on gradients of water potential in the soil—plant—atmosphere continuum. The leaf water potential can be easily and rapidly determined by means of pressure chambers (Scholander et al. 1965) or by thermocouple psychrometers (e.g. von Willert et al. 1995). Commonly used parameters for plant water stress characterisation are the minimum water potential (ψmin) and the predawn water potential (ψpd). During the night, the water potential of a nontranspiring plant will equilibrate with the “wettest” water potential of the substrate around the roots, and ψsoil becomes ψpd of (Ritchie and Hinkley 1975; Hinckley et al. 1978; Richter 1997). Therefore, ψpd in many cases will be a good estimate of the soil's water availability (e.g. Verotec et al. 2001).


Water Potential Sand Dune Leaf Water Potential Soil Water Potential Soil Water Availability 
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