Controlling stomatal aperture in semi-arid regions—The dilemma of saving water or being cool?

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Stomatal regulation of leaf gas exchange with the atmosphere is a key process in plant adaptation to the environment, particularly in semi-arid regions with high atmospheric evaporative demand. Development of stomata, integrating internal signaling and environmental cues sets the limit for maximum diffusive capacity of stomata, through size and density and is under a complex genetic control, thus providing multiple levels of regulation. Operational stomatal conductance to water vapor and CO2 results from feed-back and/or feed-forward mechanisms and is the end-result of a plethora of signals originated in leaves and/or in roots at each moment. CO2 assimilation versus water vapor loss, proposed to be the subject of optimal regulation, is species dependent and defines the water use efficiency (WUE). WUE has been a topic of intense research involving areas from genetics to physiology. In crop plants, especially in semi-arid regions, the question that arises is how the compromise of reducing transpiration to save water will impact on plant performance through leaf temperature. Indeed, plant transpiration by providing evaporative cooling, is a major component of the leaf energy balance. In this paper we discuss the dilemma of ‘saving water or being cool’ bringing about recent findings from molecular genetics, to development and physiology of stomata. The question of ‘how relevant is screening for high/low WUE in crops for semi-arid regions, where drought and heat co-occur’ is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-64
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Crop management
  • Leaf temperature
  • Night-time transpiration
  • Semi-arid regions, Heat wave
  • Stomata
  • WUE


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