Most plants experience many fluctuations in sunlight from full sun to shade throughout the day. Under these conditions, stomatal and photosynthetic responses vary dramatically among species depending on water status and growth form. Many herbaceous, fast-growing species rapidly reduce stomatal opening during short-term shade periods. Rapid stomatal closure during shade conserves water, but may also reduce CO2 uptake. Because periods of alternating sun and shade can reduce accumulative water stress that would otherwise severely curtail carbon gain, some herbs are restricted to habitats with intermittent periods of shade. In contrast to herbaceous growth forms, woody species maintain relatively constant stomatal opening during both sun and shade periods. This results in greater CO2 uptake, but with greater water loss. These two generalized response patterns for woody and herbaceous species to natural variations in sunlight conflict with conventional ideas of water use and carbon gain based on measurements made under constant light.
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