The Role of Bundle Sheath Extensions and Life Form in Stomatal Responses to Leaf Water Status

Bundle sheath extensions (BSEs) are key features of leaf structure with currently little-understood functions. To test the hypothesis that BSEs reduce the hydraulic resistance from the bundle sheath to the epidermis (rbe) and thereby accelerate hydropassive stomatal movements, we compared stomatal responses with reduced humidity and leaf excision among 20 species with heterobaric or homobaric leaves and herbaceous or woody life forms. We hypothesized that low rbe due to the presence of BSEs would increase the rate of stomatal opening (V) during transient wrong-way responses, but more so during wrong-way responses to excision (Ve) than humidity (Vh), thus increasing the ratio of Ve to Vh. We predicted the same trends for herbaceous relative to woody species given greater hydraulic resistance in woody species. We found that Ve, Vh, and their ratio were 2.3 to 4.4 times greater in heterobaric than homobaric leaves and 2.0 to 3.1 times greater in herbaceous than woody species. To assess possible causes for these differences, we simulated these experiments in a dynamic compartment/resistance model, which predicted larger Ve and Ve/Vh in leaves with smaller rbe. These results support the hypothesis that BSEs reduce rbe. Comparison of our data and simulations suggested that rbe is approximately 4 to 16 times larger in homobaric than heterobaric leaves. Our study provides new evidence that variations in the distribution of hydraulic resistance within the leaf and plant are central to understanding dynamic stomatal responses to water status and their ecological correlates and that BSEs play several key roles in the functional ecology of heterobaric leaves.