Plants regulate leaf temperature to boost carbon uptake

The thermal traits of a leaf, critical for photosynthesis, may be under strong evolutionary selection that occurs in response to environmental temperatures. Here a thermal leaf image details temperature variation, which greatly affects plant functions since temperature is closely linked to metabolic kinetics - the plant's pathways and speed of reactions that support growth and other functions essential for survival. (Image credit: Ben Blonder)

By Los Alamos National Laboratory

A study published in Nature Plants led by authors at Los Alamos National Laboratory has shown that plants regulate their leaf temperature with some independence from the surrounding air temperature, a trait that increases carbon uptake through photosynthesis. The research offers promise for refining Earth system models that help predict climate change impacts and feedbacks.

"This research combines theory for leaf energy flows with globally distributed temperature data for diverse plant taxa to show that leaves generally do not match air temperature, but instead thermoregulate, said Sean Michaletz, a plant ecologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which led the study. Michaletz, a Los Alamos Director's Postdoctoral Fellow, and his mentor Nate McDowell published their Nature Plants paper in collaboration with authors from other institutions, including CyVerse (formerly called the iPlant Collaborative) community members.

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