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.
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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) .
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.