Stomatal and leaf growth responses to water deficit in willow
Abscisic acid (ABA) was synthesised in dehydrating leaves and roots of willow (Salix dasyclados) and exogenous ABA in the xylem stream was shown to cause decreases in stomatal conductance. A transient decrease in leaf water potential occurred if water was entirely withheld from roots on one side of a willow plant. This was avoided if roots from all sides of the plant were watered and only root tips were allowed to dehydrate. Partial stomatal closure and decreased leaf extension rate then occurred without any initial perturbation in leaf water potential or leaf ABA. The drying event was associated with an increased content of ABA in root tips and xylem sap. The effects were reversible on either rewatering or excision of the affected root tips. It was concluded that partial dehydration of root tips caused partial stomatal closure and decreased leaf extension, and that changes in the ABA content of root tips and the xylem sap were consistent with a possible causal role for root-sourced ABA in the regulation of leaf physiology in response to root water deficit. Stem-girdling experiments indicated that a major pathway of ABA transport, between leaves on different stems in the shoot system, was in the phloem, without an apparent involvement of transport in the xylem. Damage to the shoot apex caused an increase in stomatal conductance. This was associated with a decreased content of ABA in the xylem sap and in fully extended leaves. It is suggested that these changes may have been associated with a possible import of ABA from mature leaves into the growth sites of axillary shoots. Results are discussed within the context of water deficit and the growth and survival of individual stems in a willow plantation.