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Journal Article 
Plant Water Use Efficiency over Geological Time - Evolution of Leaf Stomata Configurations Affecting Plant Gas Exchange 
Assouline, S; Or, D 
EISSN: 1932-6203 
Plant gas exchange is a key process shaping global hydrological and carbon cycles and is often characterized by plant water use efficiency (WUE - the ratio of CO2 gain to water vapor loss). Plant fossil record suggests that plant adaptation to changing atmospheric CO2 involved correlated evolution of stomata density (d) and size (s), and related maximal aperture, a(max). We interpreted the fossil record of s and d correlated evolution during the Phanerozoic to quantify impacts on gas conductance affecting plant transpiration, E, and CO2 uptake, A, independently, and consequently, on plant WUE. A shift in stomata configuration from large s-low d to small s-high d in response to decreasing atmospheric CO2 resulted in large changes in plant gas exchange characteristics. The relationships between gas conductance, g(ws), A and E and maximal relative transpiring leaf area, (a(max).d), exhibited hysteretic-like behavior. The new WUE trend derived from independent estimates of A and E differs from established WUE-CO2 trends for atmospheric CO2 concentrations exceeding 1,200 ppm. In contrast with a nearly-linear decrease in WUE with decreasing CO2 obtained by standard methods, the newly estimated WUE trend exhibits remarkably stable values for an extended geologic period during which atmospheric CO2 dropped from 3,500 to 1,200 ppm. Pending additional tests, the findings may affect projected impacts of increased atmospheric CO2 on components of the global hydrological cycle.