Atmospheric and soil drought reduce nocturnal conductance in live oaks

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Nocturnal and daytime whole-canopy transpiration rate (E) and conductance (g = E/VPD, where VPD is leaf to air vapor pressure difference) were assessed gravimetrically in drought-treated and well-watered 3-year-old saplings of live oak species (Quercus series Virentes Nixon) from the southeastern USA (Quercus virginiana Mill.) and Central America (Q. oleoides Cham. & Schlecter). Our objectives were to: (1) quantify nocturnal and daytime E and g in a controlled environment; (2) determine the impact of severe drought on nocturnal E and g; and (3) examine whether unavoidable water loss through the epidermis could account for nocturnal water loss. We calculated daytime E during peak daylight hours (between 0930 and 1330 h) and nocturnal E during complete darkness (between 2200 and 0500 h). In addition to reducing E and g during the daytime, drought-treated plants reduced nocturnal E and g on a whole-canopy basis by 62-64% and 59-61%, respectively, and on a leaf-level basis by 27-28% and 19-26%, respectively. In well-watered plants, nocturnal g declined with increasing VPD, providing evidence for stomatal regulation of nocturnal transpiration. In drought-treated plants, g was low and there was no relationship between nocturnal g and VPD, indicating that water loss could not be reduced further through stomatal regulation. Both daytime and nocturnal g declined curvilinearly with predawn water potential for all plants, but nocturnal g was unrelated to predawn water potentials below -1 MPa. The reductions in daytime and nocturnal E and g during drought were associated with decreases in whole-plant and leaf hydraulic conductances. Observed nocturnal g was within the same range as epidermal conductance for oak species determined in previous studies under a range of conditions. Nocturnal E rose from 6-8% of daytime E for well watered plants to 19-20% of daytime E for drought-treated plants. These results indicate that, during drought, saplings of live oak species reduce g to a minimum through stomatal closure, and experience unavoidable water loss through the epidermis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-620
Number of pages10
JournalTree physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Epidermal conductance
  • Hydraulic conductance
  • Leaf hydraulic properties
  • Nocturnal conductance
  • Quercus oleoides
  • Quercus virginiana
  • Stomatal pore index


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