Tradeoffs between leaf cooling and hydraulic safety in a dominant arid land riparian tree species

Davis E. Blasini, Dan F. Koepke, Susan E. Bush, Gerard J. Allan, Catherine A. Gehring, Thomas G. Whitham, Thomas A. Day, Kevin R. Hultine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Leaf carbon gain optimization in hot environments requires balancing leaf thermoregulation with avoiding excessive water loss via transpiration and hydraulic failure. The tradeoffs between leaf thermoregulation and transpirational water loss can determine the ecological consequences of heat waves that are increasing in frequency and intensity. We evaluated leaf thermoregulation strategies in warm- (>40°C maximum summer temperature) and cool-adapted (<40°C maximum summer temperature) genotypes of the foundation tree species, Populus fremontii, using a common garden near the mid-elevational point of its distribution. We measured leaf temperatures and assessed three modes of leaf thermoregulation: leaf morphology, midday canopy stomatal conductance and stomatal sensitivity to vapour pressure deficit. Data were used to parameterize a leaf energy balance model to estimate contrasts in midday leaf temperature in warm- and cool-adapted genotypes. Warm-adapted genotypes had 39% smaller leaves and 38% higher midday stomatal conductance, reflecting a 3.8°C cooler mean leaf temperature than cool-adapted genotypes. Leaf temperatures modelled over the warmest months were on average 1.1°C cooler in warm- relative to cool-adapted genotypes. Results show that plants adapted to warm environments are predisposed to tightly regulate leaf temperatures during heat waves, potentially at an increased risk of hydraulic failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1664-1681
Number of pages18
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Fremont cottonwood
  • arid land riparian ecosystem
  • experimental common garden
  • leaf economic traits
  • leaf temperature
  • stem sap flux
  • stomatal conductance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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