High water use in desert plants exposed to extreme heat

Luiza M.T. Aparecido, Sabrina Woo, Crystal Suazo, Kevin R. Hultine, Benjamin Blonder

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter


Many plant water use models predict leaves maximize carbon assimilation while minimizing water loss via transpiration. Alternate scenarios may occur at high temperature, including heat avoidance, where leaves increase water loss to evaporatively cool regardless of carbon uptake; or heat failure, where leaves non-adaptively lose water also regardless of carbon uptake. We hypothesized that these alternative scenarios are common in species exposed to hot environments, with heat avoidance more common in species with high construction cost leaves. Diurnal measurements of leaf temperature and gas exchange for 11 Sonoran Desert species revealed that 37% of these species increased transpiration in the absence of increased carbon uptake. High leaf mass per area partially predicted this behaviour (r2 = 0.39). These data are consistent with heat avoidance and heat failure, but failure is less likely given the ecological dominance of the focal species. These behaviours are not yet captured in any extant plant water use model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1200
Number of pages12
JournalEcology letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Cowan–Farquhar
  • functional trait
  • heat waves
  • Sonoran desert
  • stomatal regulation
  • thermal stress
  • transpiration
  • water use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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  • Cite this

    Aparecido, L. M. T., Woo, S., Suazo, C., Hultine, K. R., & Blonder, B. (2020). High water use in desert plants exposed to extreme heat. Ecology letters, 23(8), 1189-1200. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13516