transpiration

transpiration

[tran-spuh-rey-shuhn]
transpiration, in botany, the loss of water by evaporation in terrestrial plants. Some evaporation occurs directly through the exposed walls of surface cells, but the greatest amount takes place through the stomates, or intercellular spaces (see leaf). Transpiration functions to effect the ascent of sap from the roots to the leaves (thus supplying the food-manufacturing cells with water needed for photosynthesis) and to provide the moisture necessary for the diffusion of carbon dioxide into and oxygen out of these cells. The rate of transpiration is almost always far greater than the above functions would seem to warrant; in most plants 200 to 1,000 lb (90-450 kg) of water are transpired for each pound of solid material added to the plant. Various factors influence the transpiration rate. Photosynthesis, induced by light, has the effect of increasing the water pressure in the guard cells that border each stomate and that, in expanding, pull apart to widen the stomate aperture and thereby increase water loss. Low humidity promotes the diffusion of water vapor from the air passages inside the leaf into the outside air. A lack of water in the soil cuts down the water supply to the cells, thus limiting expansion of the guard cells. Therefore the rate is highest on a bright, dry day and lowest at night or in drought conditions. Morphological factors such as reduced leaf surfaces, a heavy cuticle layer on the leaves, low numbers of stomates, and stomates recessed below the other epidermal cells also lower the rate; desert plants such as conifers and cacti conserve water in these ways. Plants also lose some water by guttation, a process whereby water is exuded directly through pores called hydathodes. The reaction of a plant to excessive water loss is wilting and, eventually, death.

Loss of water from a plant, mainly through the stomata (see stoma) of leaves. Darkness, internal water deficit, and extremes of temperature tend to close stomata and decrease transpiration; illumination, ample water supply, and optimum temperature cause stomata to open and increase transpiration. Its exact significance is disputed; its roles in providing the energy to transport water in the plant and in aiding dissipation of the sun's heat (by cooling through evaporation of water) have been challenged. Since stomatal openings are necessary for the exchange of gases, transpiration has been considered by some to be merely an unavoidable phenomenon that accompanies the real functions of the stomata.

Learn more about transpiration with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Transpiration is the evaporation of water from the aerial parts of plants, especially leaves but also stems, flowers and roots. Leaf transpiration occurs through stomata, and can be thought of as a necessary "cost" associated with the opening of stomata to allow the diffusion of carbon dioxide gas from the air for photosynthesis. Transpiration also cools plants and enables mass flow of mineral nutrients and water from roots to shoots. Mass flow is caused by the decrease in hydrostatic (water) pressure in the upper parts of the plants due to the diffusion of water out of stomata into the atmosphere. Water is absorbed at the roots by osmosis, and any dissolved mineral nutrients travel with it through the xylem.

The rate of transpiration is directly related to the degree of stomatal opening, and to the evaporative demand of the atmosphere surrounding the leaf. The amount of water lost by a plant depends on its size, along with the surrounding light intensity, temperature, humidity, and wind speed (all of which influence evaporative demand). Soil water supply and soil temperature can influence stomatal opening, and thus transpiration rate.

A fully grown tree may lose several hundred gallons (a few cubic meters) of water through its leaves on a hot, dry day. About 90% of the water that enters a plant's roots is used for this process. The transpiration ratio is the ratio of the mass of water transpired to the mass of dry matter produced; the transpiration ratio of crops tends to fall between 200 and 1000 (i.e., crop plants transpire 200 to 1000 kg of water for every kg of dry matter produced) .

Transpiration rate of plants can be measured by a number of techniques, including potometers, lysimeters, porometers, and heat balance sap flow gauges.

Desert plants and conifers have specially adapted structures, such as thick cuticles, reduced leaf areas, sunken stomata and hairs to reduce transpiration and conserve water. Many cacti conduct photosynthesis in succulent stems, rather than leaves, so the surface area of the shoot is very low. Many desert plants have a special type of photosynthesis, termed Crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM photosynthesis in which the stomata are closed during the day and open at night when transpiration will be lower.

References

--Contributions/68.193.159.81 (68.193.159.81) 19:24, 11 October 2008 (UTC)* A description of transpiration, including a short animation illustrating the process

Search another word or see transpirationon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature