Allometric co-variation of xylem and stomata across diverse woody seedlings

Mengying Zhong*, Bruno E.L. Cerabolini, Pilar Castro-Díez, Jean Philippe Puyravaud, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Leaf stomatal density is known to co-vary with leaf vein density. However, the functional underpinning of this relation, and how it scales to whole-plant water transport anatomy, is still unresolved. We hypothesized that the balance of water exchange between the vapour phase (in stomata) and liquid phase (in vessels) depends on the consistent scaling between the summed stomatal areas and xylem cross-sectional areas, both at the whole-plant and single-leaf level. This predicted size co-variation should be driven by the co-variation of numbers of stomata and terminal vessels. We examined the relationships of stomatal traits and xylem anatomical traits from the entire plant to individual leaves across seedlings of 53 European woody angiosperm species. There was strong and convergent scaling between total stomatal area and stem xylem area per plant and between leaf total stomatal area and midvein xylem area per leaf across all the species, irrespective of variation in leaf habit, growth-form or relative growth rate. Moreover, strong scaling was found between stomatal number and terminal vessel number, whereas not in their respective average areas. Our findings have broad implications for integrating xylem architecture and stomatal distribution and deepen our understanding of the design rules of plants' water transport network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2301-2310
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Cell and Environment
Issue number9
Early online date16 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • individual stomatal area
  • individual vessel area
  • minor vessel number
  • stomatal number
  • total stomatal area
  • xylem cross-sectional area


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