Adjustments of leaf traits and whole plant leaf area for balancing water supply and demand in Robinia pseudoacacia under different precipitation conditions on the Loess Plateau

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Zhang, Z., Huang, M., Zhao, X. and Wu, L. 2019. Adjustments of leaf traits and whole plant leaf area for balancing water supply and demand in Robinia pseudoacacia under different precipitation conditions on the Loess Plateau. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 279, p. 107733.

AuthorsZhang, Z., Huang, M., Zhao, X. and Wu, L.
Abstract

The adjustments of plant traits for balancing water supply and demand are critical for keeping the survival of forests under drought stress. In this study, we aimed to determine the long-term adjustments of leaf traits and whole plant leaf area (PLA) in Robinia pseudoacacia trees under different precipitation conditions, and to provide physiological information for modelling. We characterized the temporal changes of plant traits with simulated different precipitation conditions using three levels of water supply in a controlled growth chamber. The results indicated that increasing transpiration with R. pseudoacacia growth leaded to a decline in soil moisture under each precipitation conditions. As drought progressed, leaves exhibited a coordinated increase in vein and stomatal densities, higher drought tolerance by increasing cell wall elasticity, and higher water storage capacitance. After 60 days, leaf traits were similar among the treatments while PLA decreased considerably with decreasing water supply. The field observation along a precipitation gradient indicated that PLA decreased by 64% as mean annual precipitation declined from 645.9 mm to 421.9 mm, while leaf traits did not exhibit marked differences among different sites. The variation in PLA along the precipitation gradient could be well estimated with the optimal PLA calculated by long-term simulations of soil water balance. In summary, increasing transpiration with plant growth induced similar patterns of soil desiccation under different precipitation conditions, which further resulted in the convergence in leaf traits. The adjustment of PLA achieved an optimal value to maximize plant growth and to prevent severe drought stress by balancing the water supply and demand. These results provided a way to fill the gap between experiments and modelling studies for large-scale predictions of plant traits, and should be helpful for the sustainable management of plantation forests in the Loess Plateau.

KeywordsStomatal density; Vein density; Leaf area index; Precipitation gradient; Soil desiccation
Year of Publication2019
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Journal citation279, p. 107733
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.107733
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderNatural Environment Research Council
National Natural Science Foundation of China
Funder project or codeModelling and managing critical zone relationships between soil, water and ecosystem processes across the Loess Plateau
41571130082
41571213
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online31 Aug 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted25 Aug 2019
PublisherElsevier Science Bv
ISSN0168-1923

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