Seasonal trends in carbon assimilation, stomatal conductance, pre-dawn leaf water potential and growth in Terminalia ferdinandiana, a deciduous tree of northern Australian savannas

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Journal Article
Australian Journal of Botany, 1997, 45 (1), pp. 53 - 69
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Seasonal trends in pre-dawn leaf water potential and morning and afternoon rates of light-saturated assimilation and stomatal conductance were studied in saplings of the deciduous tree Terminalia ferdinandiana Excell. Mean daily maximum assimilation rates ranged from 11 μmol m-2 s-1 in the wet season to 8 μmol m-2 s-1 during the transition from the wet to the dry season. Saplings were without leaves from June to October inclusive (dry season). There was a log-linear relationship between stomatal conductance and pre-dawn leaf water potential (r = 0.76, n = 325), and a weak linear relationship between daily maximum assimilation and pre-dawn leaf water potential (r = 0.39, n = 184). Assimilation rates were higher in the morning than in the afternoon in April and May, but were similar throughout the day from December to March. Seasonal trends in assimilation could be attributed primarily to stomatal closure, but diurnal differences could not. High leaf temperatures may have been responsible for observed lower assimilation rates in the afternoon in April and May. Assimilation and stomatal conductance decreased when leaf temperatures rose above 38°C and/or the leaf-to-air vapour pressure difference exceeded 4-4.5 kPa. Pre-dawn leaf water potentials decreased more quickly, and stomatal conductance was more sensitive to this decrease, in T. ferdinandiana saplings than in saplings of Eucalyptus tetrodonta F. Muell. a co-occurring evergreen tree. Specific leaf area and assimilation per unit dry weight were higher in T. ferdinandiana than in E. tetrodonta which is consistent with other studies of costs and benefits of deciduousness.
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