Water-use efficiency declines during autumn leaf senescence in three deciduous tree species, North Carolina piedmont, USA.
During fall leaf senescence in deciduous species, photosynthesis nears completion due to chlorophyll breakdown and re-assimilation. However, several other processes such as leaf nutrient uptake, re-translocation, and storage, or tissue dehydration to avoid frost damage, may be important and dependent upon stomatal opening. We report here on measured changes in photosynthesis (A), leaf conductance to water vapor (g), and WUE (estimated by A/g) in three deciduous tree species (Acer saccharum, Cornus florida, and Ginkgo biloba) during the weeks of leaf senescence preceding abscission. Substantial decreases in A of 60 up to 80% were not matched quantitatively by similar declines in g (40 to 70%), resulting in corresponding decreases in WUE (estimated by A/g) from near 50% to over 300% among the three species. This shift to a lower WUE may reflect adaptive value in maintaining a higher g relative to A during the fall leaf senescence period.
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