Optimal stomatal theory predicts CO2 responses of stomatal conductance in both gymnosperm and angiosperm trees

Anna Gardner, Mingkai Jiang, David S. Ellsworth, A. Robert MacKenzie, Jeremy Pritchard, Martin Karl Friedrich Bader, Craig V.M. Barton, Carl Bernacchi, Carlo Calfapietra, Kristine Y. Crous, Mirindi Eric Dusenge, Teresa E. Gimeno, Marianne Hall, Shubhangi Lamba, Sebastian Leuzinger, Johan Uddling, Jeffrey Warren, Göran Wallin, Belinda E. Medlyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimal stomatal theory predicts that stomata operate to maximise photosynthesis (Anet) and minimise transpirational water loss to achieve optimal intrinsic water-use efficiency (iWUE). We tested whether this theory can predict stomatal responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 (eCO2), and whether it can capture differences in responsiveness among woody plant functional types (PFTs). We conducted a meta-analysis of tree studies of the effect of eCO2 on iWUE and its components Anet and stomatal conductance (gs). We compared three PFTs, using the unified stomatal optimisation (USO) model to account for confounding effects of leaf–air vapour pressure difference (D). We expected smaller gs, but greater Anet, responses to eCO2 in gymnosperms compared with angiosperm PFTs. We found that iWUE increased in proportion to increasing eCO2 in all PFTs, and that increases in Anet had stronger effects than reductions in gs. The USO model correctly captured stomatal behaviour with eCO2 across most datasets. The chief difference among PFTs was a lower stomatal slope parameter (g1) for the gymnosperm, compared with angiosperm, species. Land surface models can use the USO model to describe stomatal behaviour under changing atmospheric CO2 conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1229-1241
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • climate change
  • deciduous
  • evergreen
  • free-air CO enrichment
  • photosynthesis
  • water-use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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