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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


7 April 2017

The Science
This research 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 the 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. The scientists 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 research has broad implications for fundamental biology and for applied modeling of ecosystems.

BER Program Manager
Daniel Stover
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science, SC-23.1 (301-903-0289)

Principal Investigator
Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, WA 99354

Funding was provided by the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Tropics project of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science; by Los Alamos National Laboratory LDRD, by the Natonal Science Foundation, and bythe 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. "The energetic and carbon economic origins of leaf thermoregulation." Nature Plants 2, 16129 (2016). [DOI:10.1038/nplants.2016.129]


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