Convergence in maximum stomatal conductance of C3 woody angiosperms in natural ecosystems across bioclimatic zones

Michelle Murray*, Wuu Kuang Soh, Charilaos Yiotis, Sven Batke, Andrew C. Parnell, Robert A. Spicer, Tracy Lawson, Rodrigo Caballero, Ian J. Wright, Conor Purcell, Jennifer C. McElwain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Stomatal conductance (gs) in terrestrial vegetation regulates the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and water loss through transpiration, closely linking the biosphere and atmosphere and influencing climate. Yet, the range and pattern of gs in plants from natural ecosystems across broad geographic, climatic, and taxonomic ranges remains poorly quantified. Furthermore, attempts to characterize gs on such scales have predominantly relied upon meta-analyses compiling data from many different studies. This approach may be inherently problematic as it combines data collected using unstandardized protocols, sometimes over decadal time spans, and from different habitat groups. Using a standardized protocol, we measured leaf-level gs using porometry in 218 C3 woody angiosperm species in natural ecosystems representing seven bioclimatic zones. The resulting dataset of 4273 gs measurements, which we call STraits (Stomatal Traits), was used to determine patterns in maximum gs (gsmax) across bioclimatic zones and whether there was similarity in the mean gsmax of C3 woody angiosperms across ecosystem types. We also tested for differential gsmax in two broadly defined habitat groups – open-canopy and understory-subcanopy – within and across bioclimatic zones. We found strong convergence in mean gsmax of C3 woody angiosperms in the understory-subcanopy habitats across six bioclimatic zones, but not in open-canopy habitats. Mean gsmax in open-canopy habitats (266 ± 100 mmol m-2 s-1) was significantly higher than in understory-subcanopy habitats (233 ± 86 mmol m-2 s-1). There was also a central tendency in the overall dataset to operate toward a gsmax of ∼250 mmol m-2 s-1. We suggest that the observed convergence in mean gsmax of C3 woody angiosperms in the understory-subcanopy is due to a buffering of gsmax against macroclimate effects which will lead to differential response of C3 woody angiosperm vegetation in these two habitats to future global change. Therefore, it will be important for future studies of gsmax to categorize vegetation according to habitat group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Biomes
  • Convergence
  • Habitat
  • Maximum stomatal conductance
  • Natural ecosystems
  • Understory
  • Variance
  • Woody angiosperms

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