A novel approach for diagnosing isohydric and anisohydric plant water use during drought

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Kimberly A Novick, Indiana University - Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States, Daniel Tyler Roman, Indiana University Bloomington, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Bloomington, IN, United States, Edward R Brzostek, Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Biology, Bloomington, IN, United States, Danilo Dragoni, Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Geography, Bloomington, IN, United States and Richard Phillips, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States
Recent years have seen the emergence of a new framework for describing plant water use, whereby species-specific water use strategies during periods of hydrologic stress are classified as falling on a spectrum of isohydric to anisohydric behavior. Trees that regulate water potential to within a relatively narrow range, and thereby reduce the risk of damaging xylem cavitation, are categorized as isohydric. In contrast, anisohydric trees allow their leaf water potential to decrease during drought, which may improve gas exchange rates, but at the cost of a greater risk of cavitation in the xylem. To date, most of the approaches to diagnose and characterize isohydric as compared to anisohydric behavior rely on observations of stem or leaf water potential measurements, which are difficult to collect at a high temporal and spatial frequency and rely on destructive techniques. Here, we use cohesion-tension theory to develop a novel approach for diagnosing isohydric/anisohydric behavior in observations of leaf- or canopy-scale stomatal conductance, which are data that may be collected in situ and with relative ease. The approach is particularly focused on exploring how the relationship between stomatal conductance and vapor pressure deficit changes during dry-down periods. The theoretical predictions suggest that the sensitivity of stomatal conductance to vapor pressure deficit may decrease over the course of the drought event for more anisohydric trees, and increase in the case of more isohydric trees. Species-specific, leaf-level observations of the relevant variables collected during the course of a severe drought event affecting the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in 2012 are shown to confirm the theoretical predictions. Finally, the diagnostic approach is evaluated in the context of other emerging approaches for describing stomatal behavior, including the growing recognition of the role of hydraulic capacitance during drought, and recent advances in stomatal optimization theory. Ultimately, placing species along the isohydric-anisohydric contiuum may advance our understanding of the magnitude of drought-related declines in productivity and other physiological processes in forest ecosystems.