U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

The Energetic and Carbon Economic Origins of Leaf Thermoregulation
Published: August 22, 2016
Posted: June 15, 2017

The Science 
The research described in this paper uses a variety of global datasets to support theory suggesting that plants maximize carbon gain, in part, via myriad traits that regulate temperature near the optimum for photosynthesis. 

The Impact
This paper provides the first large advance in our understanding of leaf thermoregulation, and is thus likely to be tested widely.

Leaf thermoregulation has been rarely documented, and its control is unknown. However, leaf temperature is one of the most critical parameters regulating photosynthesis in Earth System Models. Improving its understanding has widespread fundamental and applied (e.g., modeling) value. We tested a novel carbon and energy-based theory using multiple global datasets of leaf temperature and photosynthesis, along with myriad leaf traits. The theory was supported by the data, and demonstrated that leaf thermoregulation does act to maximize photosynthesis. This paper has broad implications for fundamental biology and for applied modeling of ecosystems.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov (301-903-0289)

(PI Contact)
Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Lab

Funding was provided by DOE, Office of Science, NGEE-Tropics, via LANL LDRD, via NSF, and via the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. 

Michaletz, S.T., Weiser, M.D., McDowell, N.G., Zhou, J., Kaspari, M., Helliker, B.R. and Enquist, B.J., 2016. The energetic and carbon economic origins of leaf thermoregulation. Nature Plants, 2, p.16129. DOI:10.1038/nplants.2016.129.

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)