A Meta-analysis of Plant Photosynthetic Traits and Water-use efficiency Responses to Drought.
Drought is predicted to become more intense and frequent in many regions of the world in the context of climate change, especially in the semi-arid regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Understanding the plant photosynthetic traits (Pn, Gs and Tr) and water use efficiency (WUE) response to drought is very important with regard to plant growth and productivity, which could reflect the terrestrial primary productivity worldwide. We used a meta-analysis based on studies of a worldwide range and full plant species Pn, Gs, Tr and WUE under drought condition and aimed to determine the responses of Pn, Gs, Tr and WUE of different drought intensities (mild, moderate and severe), different photosynthetic pathways (C3 and C4) and growth forms (herbs, shrubs, trees and lianas). Furthermore, reveal the differences from different plant groups (e.g. C3 and C4 plants; annual (A-herbs) and perennial (P-herbs) herbs; conifer, deciduous and evergreen trees) under the same drought intensities. Additionally, we analyzed the relationship between stomatal conductance (Gs) with Pn, Tr and WUE. Our results were as follows: 1) drought decreased the photosynthetic traits with the drought stress increasing, but increased the water use efficiency, and increased to the greatest extent in lianas, compared with herbs, shrubs and trees. 2) Furthermore, C4 plants had an advantage in photosynthesis compared to C3 plants under the same drought conditions. However, the WUE in C4 plants was not promoted as in C3 plants. The photosynthesis traits showed a more substantial decrease in P-herbs than in A-herbs. The drought promoted the WUE in P-herbs, but inhibited it in A-herbs. Compared with conifer and deciduous trees, the photosynthesis traits declined the most in evergreen tree. The WUE in deciduous trees showed a more obvious increase among the three leaf habits. 3) Finally, the Gs showed a close relationship with photosynthesis rate (Pn) and transpiration rate (Tr), which could explain 50% of the decrease in the Pn and 72% of the decline in Tr. Nevertheless, the Gs did not show a significant linear correlation with WUE, it's a more complex relationship between them .Our study provides comprehensive information about the changes in plant photosynthetic traits and water use efficiency under drought.