Wind speed effects on leaf energy balance, transpiration and water use efficiency

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Stanislaus J Schymanski and Dani Or, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Transpiration and heat exchange rates by plant leaves involve coupled physiological processes of significant ecohydrological importance. Prediction of the effects of changing environmental conditions such as irradiance, temperature, humidity and wind speed requires a thorough understanding of these processes. The common assumption that leaf temperature equals air temperature may introduce significant bias into estimates of transpiration rates and water use efficiency (WUE, the amount of carbon gained by photosynthesis per unit of water lost by transpiration). Theoretical considerations and observations suggest that leaf temperatures may deviate substantially from air temperature under typical environmental conditions, leading to greatly modified transpiration rates compared to isothermal conditions. In particular, effects of wind on gas exchange must consider feedbacks with leaf temperature. Systematic quantification of the effects of wind speed on leaf heat and gas exchange rates yield some surprising insights. We found a range of conditions where increased wind speed can suppress transpiration rates. The result reflects unintuitive feedbacks between sensible heat flux, leaf temperature, leaf-to-air vapour pressure deficit and latent heat flux. Modelling results suggest that with high wind speeds the same leaf conductance (for water vapour and carbon dioxide) can be maintained with less evaporative losses. This leads to positive relation between water use efficiency and wind speed across a wide range of conditions. The presentation will report results from a lab experiment allowing separation of the different leaf energy balance components under fully controlled conditions (wind speed, temperature, humidity, irradiance) and put them into perspective with a detailed leaf energy balance model and the commonly used Penman-Monteith equation.