The University of Arizona

Effects of top-soil drying on saltcedar photosynthesis and stomatal conductance.

M. Mounsif, C. Wan, R.E. Sosebee


Phreatophytes are trees and shrubs with deep roots tapping the water tables. As such they are presumed to be able to tolerate a water deficit in the top soil. Growth of some phreatophytes is decoupled from environmental factors such as incident precipitation. This study examined the effects of surface soil drying on gas exchange and stomatal conductance of a riparian phreatophyte Tamarix gallica L. (saltcedar) during 2 consecutive growing seasons in which summer precipitation varied substantially. Daily average gas exchange (A) was 13.5 micromol m(-2) sec(-1) in June and 13.4 micromol m(-2) sec(-1) in September, 1991 when surface soil was wet as compared to the same periods of 1990 in which very little rain occurred (6.44 and 8.08 micromol m(-2) sec(-1), respectively, P < 0.0001). Stomatal conductance (g) or maximal conductance showed a similar trend of photosynthesis. Both average gas exchange and stomatal conductance were correlated with water content in the upper portion of the soil (r = 0.83 to 0.88 for A, P < 0.05 and r = 0.65 to 0.70 for g, P < 0.05) in 1990 (a dry year). The variations in gas exchange or stomatac conductance of saltcedar were mainly caused by water availability in the upper soil layers, not by depth to the water table (0.65 vs 2.74 m). The responses of gas exchange and stomatal conductance to surface soil drying in the phreatophyte saltcedar were similar to that of several crop species [lupin (Lupinus cosentinii Guss. cv. Eregulla), wheat (Triticum aestivum L. cv. Cadensa) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)]. Our data suggest that upon soil re-wetting, when water availability to shallow lateral roots increased, the entire root system of saltcedar was actively involved in water uptake, leading to higher stomatal conductance and photosynthesis.



tamarix gallica;weed biology;diurnal variation;stomatal conductance;drought tolerance;carbon dioxide;root systems;photosynthesis;gas exchange;precipitation;xylem water potential;semiarid zones;Texas;introduced species

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