One strategy for plants to optimize stomatal function is to open and close their stomata quickly in response to environmental signals. It is generally assumed that small stomata can alter aperture faster than large stomata. We tested the hypothesis that species with small stomata close faster than species with larger stomata in response to darkness by comparing rate of stomatal closure across an evolutionary range of species including ferns, cycads, conifers, and angiosperms under controlled ambient conditions (380 ppm CO2; 20.9% O2). The two species with fastest half-closure time and the two species with slowest half-closure time had large stomata while the remaining three species had small stomata, implying that closing rate was not correlated with stomatal size in these species. Neither was response time correlated with stomatal density, phylogeny, functional group, or life strategy. Our results suggest that past atmospheric CO2 concentration during time of taxa diversification may influence stomatal response time. We show that species which last diversified under low or declining atmospheric CO2 concentration close stomata faster than species that last diversified in a high CO2 world. Low atmospheric [CO2] during taxa diversification may have placed a selection pressure on plants to accelerate stomatal closing to maintain adequate internal CO2 and optimize water use efficiency.
- Atmospheric CO concentration
- Half-closure time in response to darkness
- Stomatal size
- Time of taxa diversification