Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) ecophysiological and morphological adaptations to drought and their consequence on biomass production and water use efficiency
The response of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) to water limitation was investigated in a lysimeter experiment. Plants were grown under three different soil moisture regimes, with values set at 35%, 70%, and 100% of the soil water availability, namely WA35, WA70, and WA100. Their morphological adaptation and productivity response to water constraint were assessed together with their water-use efficiency. Furthermore, the ecophysiological adaptation at the leaf level was assessed in terms of net photosynthesis and leaf transpiration. During the growing season, plants in the WA35, WA70, and WA100 treatments transpired 239, 386, and 589 litres of water respectively. The plants subjected to the WA35 and WA70 treatments developed smaller leaves compared with the plants subjected to the WA100 treatment (66% and 36% respectively), which contributed to the total leaf area reduction from 8.03 m2 (WA100) to 3.25 m2 (WA35). The total above-ground biomass produced in the WA35 (646 g) and WA70 (675 g) treatments reached only 46% and 48% of the biomass yield obtained in the WA100 (1415 g). The water-use efficiency across all treatments was 2.31 g L−1. At vapour pressure deficit (VPD) values <1.4 kPa trees growing under the WA35 soil moisture regime showed a stomatal down-regulation of transpiration to 5.3 mmol m−2 s−1, whereas the trees growing under the WA100 regime did not regulate their stomatal conductance and transpiration was 11.7 mmol m−2 s−1, even at VPD values >2 kPa. Black locust plants can adapt to prolonged drought conditions by reducing water loss through both reduced transpiration and leaf size. However, under well-watered conditions it does not regulate its transpiration, and therefore it cannot be considered a water-saving tree species.
Mantovani, D., Veste, M., Freese, D. (2014) Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) ecophysiological and morphological adaptations to drought and their consequence on biomass production and water use efficiency. New Zealand Journal of Forestry 44: 29.