Key message: In urban shrub trees, the species-specific photosynthetic response and water-use properties are related to the xylem anatomy of the petiole. Abstract: It is becoming essential to select urban tree species based on drought response in warm temperate regions, because water limitation is prone to occur in an urban environment, and furthermore, urban warming along with global warming intensifies drought stress even in relatively humid regions. We focused on leaf photosynthesis, water use efficiency, and leaf water relations as key factors for the evaluation of drought response in urban trees, and compared their responses to drought stress and re-watering (recovery) in five major urban shrub tree species planted in Japan. In addition, species-specific xylem anatomical traits in the leaf petiole were evaluated. The five species showed diverse responses to drought and recovery. Rhaphiolepis umbellata possessed both the highest photosynthesis (A) and highest intrinsic water use efficiency (A/gs) under drought, as well as full recovery in the midday leaf water potential (Ψmid). These results suggest that R. umbellata is the most favorable species as an urban tree among the five species. In contrast, A and A/gs in Rhododendron obtusum were only 19% and 55%, respectively, of those in R. umbellata under drought, along with incomplete recovery in Ψmid. The responses of A, A/gs, and Ψmid for the other three species were intermediate between R. umbellata and R. obtusum. We found that during recovery, the species-specific coordination between photosynthesis and leaf hydraulic traits was mediated by stomatal regulation. The species with large stomatal conductance had both high photosynthesis and high leaf hydraulic conductance, along with a large vessel area in the leaf petiole. The selection of trees with consideration of the drought response, along with appropriate watering management, will improve the photosynthetic ability, and thus, will enhance CO2 absorption by urban trees.
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