Coordination of leaf water supply and demand in aquatic and land plants

Is there a difference between emergent aquatic and terrestrial monocot herbs when it comes to coordination of leaf stomatal and vein traits?

Emergent aquatic plants mostly occur in shallow waters with their lower stem underwater rooted in the bottom substrate. However, their leaves emerge from the water surface and are exposed to air, similar to the leaves of terrestrial plants. Previous studies have good coordination between leaf water supply traits (i.e., leaf vein density) and traits related to water demand (i.e., stomatal size and density) for terrestrial plants. Yet, whilst approximately 11 % of monocotyledonous plants are aquatic, little is known about this relationship in aquatic plants.

The habitat of emergent aquatic (A) and terrestrial (B) herbs. Image credit: W.L. Zhao and Q.G. Mao.

In their recent study published in AoBP, Zhao et al. analysed leaf vein and stomatal characteristics of 14 emergent aquatic and 13 terrestrial monocotyledonous herb species. They found that emergent aquatic species had significantly higher stomatal density and stomatal number per vein length, but a lower mean major vein length per area (VLA) and total VLA than terrestrial species. Stomatal density and total VLA were positively correlated among the emergent aquatic species, terrestrial species, but this correlation became non-significant when data from both the groups were pooled. These results show that the differences in water supply between emergent aquatic and terrestrial plants modify the coordination of their leaf veins and stomatal traits.

William Salter

William (Tam) Salter is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. He has a bachelor degree in Ecological Science (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in plant ecophysiology from the University of Sydney. Tam is interested in the identification and elucidation of plant traits that could be useful for ecosystem resilience and future food security under global environmental change. He is also very interested in effective scientific communication.

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