Journal Article

Differences in drought sensitivities and photosynthetic limitations between co-occurring C<sub>3</sub> and C<sub>4</sub> (NADP-ME) Panicoid grasses

Brad Ripley, Kristen Frole and Matthew Gilbert

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 3, pages 493-503
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Differences in drought sensitivities and photosynthetic limitations between co-occurring C3 and C4 (NADP-ME) Panicoid grasses

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


Show Summary Details


Background and Aims

The success of C4 plants lies in their ability to attain greater efficiencies of light, water and nitrogen use under high temperature, providing an advantage in arid, hot environments. However, C4 grasses are not necessarily less sensitive to drought than C3 grasses and are proposed to respond with greater metabolic limitations, while the C3 response is predominantly stomatal. The aims of this study were to compare the drought and recovery responses of co-occurring C3 and C4 NADP-ME grasses from the subfamily Panicoideae and to determine stomatal and metabolic contributions to the observed response.


Six species of locally co-occurring grasses, C3 species Alloteropsis semialata subsp. eckloniana, Panicum aequinerve and Panicum ecklonii, and C4 (NADP-ME) species Heteropogon contortus, Themeda triandra and Tristachya leucothrix, were established in pots then subjected to a controlled drought followed by re-watering. Water potentials, leaf gas exchange and the response of photosynthetic rate to internal CO2 concentrations were determined on selected occasions during the drought and re-watering treatments and compared between species and photosynthetic types.

Key Results

Leaves of C4 species of grasses maintained their photosynthetic advantage until water deficits became severe, but lost their water-use advantage even under conditions of mild drought. Declining C4 photosynthesis with water deficit was mainly a consequence of metabolic limitations to CO2 assimilation, whereas, in the C3 species, stomatal limitations had a prevailing role in the drought-induced decrease in photosynthesis. The drought-sensitive metabolism of the C4 plants could explain the observed slower recovery of photosynthesis on re-watering, in comparison with C3 plants which recovered a greater proportion of photosynthesis through increased stomatal conductance.


Within the Panicoid grasses, C4 (NADP-ME) species are metabolically more sensitive to drought than C3 species and recover more slowly from drought.

Keywords: C3 and C4 Panicoid grasses; NADP-ME subtype; drought response; stomatal and metabolic limitations; drought recovery

Journal Article.  7150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.