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

PI-Submitted Research Highlights for
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program

The Energetic And Carbon Economic Origins Of Leaf Thermoregulation

Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Lab


Figure. Leaf traits regulating leaf temperature and subsequent photosynthesis.
 (figure used in highlight slide)

7 April 2017

The Science
This paper uses a variety of global datasets to support theory suggesting that plants maximize carbon gain in part via a myriad of 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 a myriad of 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.


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