Light-induced plasticity in leaf hydraulics, venation, anatomy, and gas exchange in ecologically diverse Hawaiian lobeliads

Christine Scoffoni, Justin Kunkle, Jessica Pasquet-Kok, Christine Vuong, Amish J. Patel, Rebecca A. Montgomery, Thomas J. Givnish, Lawren Sack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Leaf hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) quantifies the capacity of a leaf to transport liquid water and is a major constraint on light-saturated stomatal conductance (gs) and photosynthetic rate (Amax). Few studies have tested the plasticity of Kleaf and anatomy across growth light environments. These provided conflicting results. The Hawaiian lobeliads are an excellent system to examine plasticity, given the striking diversity in the light regimes they occupy, and their correspondingly wide range of Amax, allowing maximal carbon gain for success in given environments. We measured Kleaf, Amax, gs and leaf anatomical and structural traits, focusing on six species of lobeliads grown in a common garden under two irradiances (300/800 μmol photons m-2 s-1). We tested hypotheses for light-induced plasticity in each trait based on expectations from optimality. Kleaf, Amax, and gs differed strongly among species. Sun/shade plasticity was observed in Kleaf, Amax, and numerous traits relating to lamina and xylem anatomy, venation, and composition, but gs was not plastic with growth irradiance. Species native to higher irradiance showed greater hydraulic plasticity. Our results demonstrate that a wide set of leaf hydraulic, stomatal, photosynthetic, anatomical, and structural traits tend to shift together during plasticity and adaptation to diverse light regimes, optimizing performance from low to high irradiance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-58
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors New Phytologist © 2015 New Phytologist Trust.


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Evolution
  • Gas exchange
  • Hawaiian lobeliads
  • Leaf anatomy
  • Leaf mass per area (LMA)
  • Sun/shade plasticity


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