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Adaptation Of Grasses To Water Stress-Leaf Rolling And Stomate Distribution

R. E. Redmann
Published 1985 · Biology

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Leaf dimension, degree of leaf rolling or folding, and stomatal densities on adaxial and abaxial leaf surfaces were measured on herbarium specimens of 39 grass species from a range of dry to wet habitats in western Canada. Stomata were counted on vinyl leaf impressions taken from the herbarium specimens. Representative surfaces also were examined using scanning electron microscopy. All species from dry habitats had narrow rolled or folded leaves (4 mm or less). The proportion of stomata on the abaxial surface of species from dry habitats ranged from 0 to 65%, but 56% of the species were strongly amphistomatous. The results were compatible with a conceptual model predicting that rolling, amphistomatous leaves would be selected for habitats in which water supply and demand fluctuate widely on seasonal or diurnal time scales. The evolutionary adaptation of grasses involves a syndrome of physiological, anatomical, and morphological characteristics. Grass leaf structure is closely coupled with major physiological processes such as photosynthesis, water relations, and energy balance. For example, vascular bundle and mesophyll cell arrangement are related to the type of photosynthetic pathway (Black et al., 1973; Hattersley & Watson, 1975), which, in turn, can influence niche separation in grasses (Monson et al., 1983). Specialized leaf tissue structure in some grasses results in leaf rolling, which strongly influences water and energy balances by changing the characteristic leaf dimension and the conductance of heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide (Ripley & Redmann, 1976). This paper concentrates on the relationship between leaf rolling and stomatal distribution and conductance. The anatomy and mechanism of leaf rolling in grasses have been studied for over a century (Tschirch, 1882; Shields, 1951). Loss of turgor in the bulliform cells on the adaxial (upper) surface generally is considered to induce rolling. Shrinkage of the adaxial subepidermal sclerenchyma and mesophyll, due to water loss, also contributes to involution; rolling can occur in leaves that lack bulliform cells (Shields, 1951). Some grasses have permanently rolled or folded leaves. Leaves of native grasses from semi-arid grassland roll in response to increased plant water stress during dry periods (Ripley & Redmann, 1976). More mesic grasses such as cereal crops also exhibit leaf rolling when exposed to water stress (Hurd, 1976; O'Toole et al., 1979). Leaves of Sorghum bicolor roll and unroll in response to diurnal changes in plant water status, provided stress is not too severe (Begg, 1980). The early textbooks on plant ecology generally explained rolling as a xeromorphic adaptation for reducing transpiration by "protecting" the stomata, which were considered to be concentrated on the upper surface (Warming, 1909; Weaver & Clements, 1929; McDougall, 1949). Unfortunately, references to data supporting this explanation were not given, but the idea probably originated with early work on ecological plant anatomy. Tschirch (1882) classified grasses as meadow type, with flat leaves, or steppe type, with rolling leaves. Lewton-Brain (1904) grouped British grasses into four categories representing progressively more drought resistant types: (1) leaves with flat upper surfaces, amphistomatous, (2) leaves with ribbed upper surfaces, amphistomatous, (3) leaves with ridged upper surfaces, rolled with drying, epistomatous, and (4) leaves permanently rolled or folded, epistomatous. I was unable to find published comparative data on relative stomatal distributions on grass leaves in relation to rolling or drought resistance that would verify the generalizations described above. Parkhurst (1978) pointed out that the limited data in the literature show no clear trends 1 This research was supported by a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant. Thanks go to G. Shaw who did the electron microscopy work using facilities in the Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan. V. L. Harms contributed valuable discussion regarding drought resistance classification. 2 Department of Crop Science and Plant Ecology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon S7N OWO, Canada. ANN. MISSOURI BOT. GARD. 72: 833-842. 1985. This content downloaded from 207.46.13.153 on Fri, 05 Aug 2016 06:11:51 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
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