Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs


In desert plants, transpiration rates decreased before photosynthetic rates when plants were entering a period of water stress. This may have adaptive consequences. A difference of -5 bars in the soil-moisture potential had considerable importance in reducing the rate of transpiration. In Helianthus annuus L. (sunflower) the photosynthetic rate decreased before the transpiration rate in contrast to Great Basin-Mojave Desert plants, and the changes occurred with a -1 bar difference in soil-moisture potential. Morphological changes in three desert plant species [Artemisia tridentata Nutt., Ambrosia dumosa (Gray) Payne, Larrea tridentata (Ses. Moc. ex DC) Cov.] as the soil-moisture potential decreased are given. With a mesic species, H. annuus, 20 percent reduction in photosynthesis and transpiration was reached at higher soil-moisture potentials than with the desert plants. Loss of net photosynthesis occurred in A. dumosa (a summer deciduous shrub) as Ψ soil reached -48 bars in the field, whereas L. tridentata (an evergreen shrub) at the same time was able to maintain a water potential difference between soil and plant of -10 to -15 bars and continue net CO2 gain well into the summer months.