The effect of water deficit on growth, water status and stomatal functioning of Prosopis tamarugo
was investigated under controlled water conditions. The study was done at the Antumapu Experiment Station of the University of Chile. Three levels of water stress were tested: (i) well-watered (WW), (ii) medium stress intensity (low-watered (LW)) and (iii) intense stress (non-watered (NW)), with 10 replicates each level. All growth parameters evaluated, such as twig growth, specific leaf area and apical dominance index, were significantly decreased under water deficit. Tamarugo twig growth decreased along with twig water potential. The stomatal conductance and CO2
assimilation decreased significantly under the water deficit condition. Tamarugo maintained a high stomatal conductance at low leaf water potential. In addition, tamarugo reduced its leaf area as a strategy to diminish the water demand. These results suggest that, despite a significant decrease in water status, tamarugo can maintain its growth at low leaf water potential and can tolerate intense water deficit due to a partial stomatal closing strategy that allows the sustaining of CO2
assimilation in the condition of reduced water availability.
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