Modelling C3 and C4 photosynthesis under water-stressed conditions

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Despite the observed impact of water stress on photosynthesis, some of the most used models of CO2 assimilation in C3 and C4 functional types do not directly account for it. We discuss an extension of these models, which explicitly includes the metabolic and diffusive limitations due to water stress on photosynthesis. Functional relationships describing the photosynthetic processes and CO2 diffusion inside leaves are modified to account for leaf water status on the basis of experimental results available in the literature. Extensive comparison with data shows that the model is suitable to describe the reduction in CO2 assimilation rate with decreasing leaf water potentials in various species. A simultaneous analysis of photosynthesis, transpiration and soil moisture dynamics is then carried out to explore the actual impact of drought on different photosynthesis processes and on the overall plant activity. The model well reproduces measured CO2 assimilation rate as a function of soil moisture and could be useful to formulate hypotheses for detailed experiments as well as to simulate in detail transpiration and photosynthesis dynamics under water stress.

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