Data_Sheet_1_Competition and Drought Alter Optimal Stomatal Strategy in Tree Seedlings.docx (5.68 MB)

Data_Sheet_1_Competition and Drought Alter Optimal Stomatal Strategy in Tree Seedlings.docx

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posted on 08.05.2020 by Nicole Zenes, Kelly L. Kerr, Anna T. Trugman, William R. L. Anderegg

A better understanding of plant stomatal strategies holds strong promise for improving predictions of vegetation responses to drought because stomata are the primary mechanism through which plants mitigate water stress. It has been assumed that plants regulate stomata to maintain a constant marginal water use efficiency and forego carbon gain when water is scarce. However, recent hypotheses pose that plants maximize carbon assimilation while also accounting for the risk of hydraulic damage via cavitation and hydraulic failure. This “gain-risk” framework incorporates competition in stomatal regulation because it takes into account that neighboring plants can “steal” unused water. This study utilizes stomatal models representing both the water use efficiency and carbon-maximization frameworks, and empirical data from three species in a potted growth chamber experiment, to investigate the effects of drought and competition on seedling stomatal strategy. We found that drought and competition responses in the empirical data were best explained by the carbon-maximization hypothesis and that both drought and competition affected stomatal strategy. Interestingly, stomatal responses differed substantially by species, with seedlings employing a riskier strategy when planted with a high water use competitor, and seedlings employing a more conservative strategy when planted with a low water use competitor. Lower water users in general had less stomatal sensitivity to decreasing ΨL compared to moderate to high water users. Repeated water stress also resulted in legacy effects on plant stomatal behavior, increasing stomatal sensitivity (i.e., conservative behavior) even when the seedling was returned to well-watered conditions. These results indicate that stomatal strategies are dynamic and change with climate and competition stressors. Therefore, incorporating mechanisms that allow for stomatal behavioral changes in response to water limitation may be an important step to improving carbon cycle projections in coupled climate-Earth system models.