The variety of stomatal density/index relationships available for estimating pCO2


A new positive relationship between pCO2 and stomatal frequency in Quercus guyavifolia (Fagaceae): a potential proxy for palaeo-CO2 levels

by Hu J.-J., Xing Y.-W., Turkington R., Jacques F. M. B., Su T., Huang Y.-J.,Zhou Z.-K. (2015)

Kunming Institute of Botany, China

Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Mengla, China

University of Zürich

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

  1. Jin-Jin Hu
  2. Yao-Wu Xing
  3. Roy Turkington
  4. Frédéric M. B. Jacques
  5. Tao Su
  6. Yong-Jiang Huang
  7. Zhe-Kun Zhou

in Annals of Botany 115: 777-788. – doi: 10.1093/aob/mcv007 –


Background and Aims The inverse relationship between atmospheric CO2partial pressure (pCO2) and stomatal frequency in many species of plants has been widely used to estimate palaeoatmospheric CO2 (palaeo-CO2) levels; however, the results obtained have been quite variable. This study attempts to find a potential new proxy for palaeo-CO2 levels by analysing stomatal frequency in Quercus guyavifolia (Q. guajavifolia, Fagaceae), an extant dominant species of sclerophyllous forests in the Himalayas with abundant fossil relatives.

Methods Stomatal frequency was analysed for extant samples of Q. guyavifolia collected from 17 field sites at altitudes ranging between 2493 and 4497 m. Herbarium specimens collected between 1926 and 2011 were also examined. Correlations of pCO2–stomatal frequency were determined using samples from both sources, and these were then applied to Q. preguyavaefolia fossils in order to estimate palaeo-CO2 concentrations for two late-Pliocene floras in south-western China.

Key Results In contrast to the negative correlations detected for most other species that have been studied, a positive correlation between pCOand stomatal frequency was determined in Q. guyavifolia sampled from both extant field collections and historical herbarium specimens. Palaeo-CO2 concentrations were estimated to be approx. 180–240 ppm in the late Pliocene, which is consistent with most other previous estimates.

Conclusions A new positive relationship between pCO2 and stomatal frequency in Q. guyavifolia is presented, which can be applied to the fossils closely related to this species that are widely distributed in the late-Cenozoic strata in order to estimate palaeo-CO2 concentrations. The results show that it is valid to use a positive relationship to estimate palaeo-CO2 concentrations, and the study adds to the variety of stomatal density/index relationships that available for estimating pCO2. The physiological mechanisms underlying this positive response are unclear, however, and require further research.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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