Pressure-volume (p-V) analysis, instantaneous transpiration rate and relevant leaf structural information were used to compare leaf water relations for 23 angiosperm species from semiarid temperate loess-, sand- and saline steppe grasslands and several associated habitats representing a water availability gradient. For the species studied, the most marked differences occurred between grasses and dicots. Grasses in our survey possessed low (highly negative) osmotic potential both at water saturation and at turgor loss, moderate transpiration rate, relatively high leaf dry matter proportion (DMP) and - except for the sclerophyllous Festuca species - high specific leaf area (SLA, area per unit dry mass). In contrast, dicots had lower bulk tissue elasticity, higher (less negative) osmotic potentials, intense transpiration, and lower SLA and DMP than grasses. Therefore, grasses mainly invest in osmotic potential to extract water from drying soil, while dicots rely on relatively inelastic tissue that decreases water potential by a rapid drop of turgor with turgor loss occurring at relatively high water content. Habitat effects were significant for osmotic parameters only. Osmotic potential at full turgor and at turgor loss decreased in the following order: loess grassland > sand grassland = saline grassland > loess wall. Life form influenced leaf structure only, since annuals possessed markedly higher SLA and lower DMP than perennials. Comparison of habitat specialist species within the same genus revealed that certain congeners (Achillea and Aster spp.) do not differ significantly in leaf water relations, thus they might rely on similar water supply in the three steppes. Other congeners (Festuca, Kochia and Plantago spp.) differed considerably, thus for these plants leaf function and structure must be different to ensure survival under the contrasting water regime. For the two generalist grasses (Cynodon dactylon and Dactylis glomerata) habitat-specific populations showed a tendency of increasing capacity for water extraction from soil (more negative water potential) with increasing habitat dryness, although differences were significant only between the extremes of the water availability gradient.
potential transpiration rate
leaf dry matter proportion
relative water content at turgor loss SLA
specific leaf area
bulk modulus of elasticity
osmotic potential at full turgor
osmotic potential at turgor loss
the amplitude of osmotic response ( 100Ψπ - 0Ψπ).
Bannister, P. 1986. Drought resistance, water potential and water content in some New Zealand plants. Flora 178: 23–40.
Bowman, W.D. and S.W. Roberts. 1985a. Seasonal and diurnal water relations adjustments in three evergreen chaparral shrubs. Ecology 66: 738–742.
Bowman, W.D. and S.W. Roberts. 1985b. Seasonal changes in tissue elasticity in chaparral shrubs. Physiol. Plant. 65: 233–236.
Cheung, Y.N.S., M. T. Tyree and J. Dainty. 1975. Water relations parameters on single leaves obtained in a pressure bomb and some ecological interpretations. Can, J. Bot. 53: 1342–1346.
Fekete, G., Zs. Moinar and F. Horváth. 1997. Description, identification key and classification for habitats in Hungary and the National Habitat Classification System. Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum, Budapest. [in Hungarian]
Grammatikopoulos, G. 1999. Mechanisms for drought tolerance in two Mediterranean seasonal dimorphic shrubs. Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 26: 587–593.
Jackson, R.B., J. Canadell, J. R. Ehleringer, H. A. Mooney, E.O. Sala, and E. D. Schulze. 1996. A global analysis of root distributions for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia 108: 389–411.
Kalapos, T. 1994. Leaf water potential - leaf water deficit relationship for ten species of a semiarid grassland community. Plant and Soil 160: 105–112.
Knapp, A.K. 1984. Water relations and growth of three grasses during wet and drought years in a tallgrass prairie. Oecologia 65: 35–43.
Knapp, A.K. & E. Medina. 1999. Success of C4 photosynthesis in the field: lessons from communities dominated by C4 plants. In: R.F. Sage and R.K. Monson (eds), C4 plant biology. Academic Press, San Diego, 251–283.
Koide, R. T., R. H. Robichaux, S.R. Morse and C. M. Smith. 1989. Plant water status, hydraulic resistance and capacitance. In: R.W. Pearcy, J. Ehleringer, H.A. Mooney and P.W. Rundel (eds), Plant physiological ecology. Field methods and instrumentation. Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 168–173.
Kubiske, M. E. and M. D. Abrams. 1990. Pressure volume relationship in non-rehydrated tissue at various water deficits. Plant, Cell Envir. 13: 995–1000.
Kvet, J. and M. Rychnovská. 1965. Contribution to the ecology of the steppe vegetation oh the Tihany peninsula. II. Water retention capacity of some characteristic grass and forb species. Annal. Biol. Tihany 32: 275–288.
Lo-Gullo, M.A. and S. Salleo. 1988. Different strategies of drought resistance in three Mediterranean sclerophyllous trees growing in the same environmental conditions. New Phytol. 108: 267–276.
Loik, M.E. and J. Harte. 1997. Changes in water relations for leaves exposed to a climate-warming manipulation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Env. Exp. Bot. 37: 115–123.
Maxwell, J. O. and R. E. Redmann. 1978. Leaf water potential, component potentials and relative water content in a xeric grass, Agropyron dasystachyum (Hook.) Scribn. Oecologia 35: 277–284.
Muller, R. 1991. Growing season water relations of Rhododendron maximum L. and Kalmia latifolia L. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 118: 123–127.
Niinemets, Ü. 1999. Components of leaf dry mass per area - thickness and density - alter leaf photosynthetic capacity in reverse directions in woody plants. New Phytol. 144: 35–47.
Nilsen, E.T., M. R. Sharifi, P.W. Rundel, W. M. Jarrell & R. S. Virginia. 1983. Diurnal and seasonal water relations of the desert phreatophyte Prosopis glandulosa (Honey mesquite) in the Sonoran Desert of California. Ecology 64: 1381–1393.
Nobel, P.S. and P. W. Jordan. 1983. Transpiration stream of desert species: resistances and capacitances for a C3, C4 and CAM plant. J. Expt. Bot. 34: 1379–1391.
Pavlik, B.W. 1984. Seasonal changes of osmotic pressure, symplasmic water content and tissue elasticity in the blades of dune grasses growing in situ along the coast of Oregon. Plant Cell Env. 7: 531–539.
Podani, J. 1993. SYN-TAX-pc. Computer programs for multivariate data analysis in ecology and systematics. Version 5.0. User’s guide. Scientia Publishing, Budapest.
Prior, L.D. and D. Eamus. 1999. Seasonal changes in leaf water characteristics of Eucalyptus tetrodonta and Terminalia ferdinandiana saplings in a Northern Australian Savanna. Aust. J. Bot. 47: 587–599.
Rascio, A., M. C. Cedola, G. Sorrentino, D. Pastore and G. Wittmer. 1988. Pressure-volume curves and drought resistance in two wheat genotypes. Physiol. Plant. 73: 122–127.
Sala, O.E. and W.K. Lauenroth. 1982. Small rainfall events: an ecological role in semiarid regions. Oecologia 53: 301–304.
Soó, R. 1964. Synopsis systematico-geobotanica florae vegetationisque Hungariae I. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest. [in Hungarian]
Tyree, M.T., N. S. Cheung, M.E. MacGregor, and A.J.B. Talbot. 1978. The characteristics of seasonal and ontogenetic changes in the tissue water relations of Acer, Populus, Tsuga and Picea. Can. J. Bot. 56: 635–647.
Tyree, M.T. and H. Richter. 1981. Alternative methods of analysing water potential isotherms: some cautions and clarifications. J. Exp. Bot. 32: 643–653.
Varga, Z. 1998. Steppe-like grasslands in Hungary: Conservation and sustainable use. In: G. Nagy (ed.), Ecological Aspects of Grassland Management, Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 1. Proceedings of the 17th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation, Debrecen, Hungary. Debrecen, pp: 299–311.
Wan, C., R.E. Sosebee and B.L. McMichael. 1993. Drought-induced changes in water relations in broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) under greenhouse- and field-grown conditions. Env. Exp. Bot. 33: 323–330.
Wilson, P.J, K. Thompson and J.G. Hodgson. 1999. Specific leaf area and leaf dry matter content as alternative predictors of plant strategies. New Phytol. 143: 155–162.
Zólyomi, B. and G. Fekete. 1994. The Pannonian loess steppe: differentiation in space and time. Abstracta Botanica 18: 29–41.
About this article
Cite this article
Krasser, D., Kalapos, T. Leaf water relations for 23 angiosperm species from steppe grasslands and associated habitats in Hungary. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 1, 123–131 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.1.2000.2.1
- Leaf water potential
- Osmotic potential
- Pressure - volume analysis
- Specific leaf area
- Steppe grassland