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Photosynthetic pathway and ecological adaptation explain stomatal trait diversity amongst grasses

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • S. H. Taylor
  • P. J. Franks
  • S. P. Hulme
  • E. Spriggs
  • P. A. Christin
  • E. J. Edwards
  • F. I. Woodward
  • C. P. Osborne
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>New Phytologist
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)387-396
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


• The evolution of C 4 photosynthesis in plants has allowed the maintenance of high CO 2 assimilation rates despite lower stomatal conductances. This underpins the greater water-use efficiency in C 4 species and their tendency to occupy drier, more seasonal environments than their C 3 relatives. • The basis of interspecific variation in maximum stomatal conductance to water (g max), as defined by stomatal density and size, was investigated in a common-environment screening experiment. Stomatal traits were measured in 28 species from seven grass lineages, and comparative methods were used to test for predicted effects of C 3 and C 4 photosynthesis, annual precipitation and habitat wetness on g max. • Novel results were as follows: significant phylogenetic patterns exist in g max and its determinants, stomatal size and stomatal density; C 4 species consistently have lower g max than their C 3 relatives, associated with a shift towards smaller stomata at a given density. A direct relationship between g max and precipitation was not supported. However, we confirmed associations between C 4 photosynthesis and lower precipitation, and showed steeper stomatal size-density relationships and higher g max in wetter habitats. • The observed relationships between stomatal patterning, photosynthetic pathway and habitat provide a clear example of the interplay between anatomical traits, physiological innovation and ecological adaptation in plants.