Maximum leaf conductance driven by CO2 effects on stomatal size and density over geologic time

Abstract

Stomatal pores are microscopic structures on the epidermis of leaves formed by 2 specialized guard cells that control the exchange of water vapor and CO2 between plants and the atmosphere. Stomatal size (S) and density (D) determine maximum leaf diffusive (stomatal) conductance of CO2 (gcmax) to sites of assimilation. Although large variations in D observed in the fossil record have been correlated with atmospheric CO2, the crucial significance of similarly large variations in S has been overlooked. Here, we use physical diffusion theory to explain why large changes in S necessarily accompanied the changes in D and atmospheric CO2 over the last 400 million years. In particular, we show that high densities of small stomata are the only way to attain the highest gcmax values required to counter CO2“starvation” at low atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This explains cycles of increasing D and decreasing S evident in the fossil history of stomata under the CO2 impoverished atmospheres of the Permo-Carboniferous and Cenozoic glaciations. The pattern was reversed under rising atmospheric CO2 regimes. Selection for small S was crucial for attaining high gcmax under falling atmospheric CO2 and, therefore, may represent a mechanism linking CO2 and the increasing gas-exchange capacity of land plants over geologic time

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2693183oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:2693183
Last time updated on July 8, 2012View original full text link

This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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