Navigation Links
Seeing the forest through the trees and seeing the trees through the leaves
Date:1/13/2010

Since the time of the earliest humans, people have attempted to understand the natural environment. We have observed our surroundings and searched for explanations for natural phenomena. Yet despite our persistence over thousands of years, many basic questions remain to be answered. Although we understand core processes such as photosynthesis, we do not have a full understanding of issues such as how plants maximize their photosynthetic capacity.

Specific leaf area, or SLA, plays a prominent role in ecological theories that attempt to provide explanations for plant and ecosystem function. SLA, a measurement of the total leaf area to dry mass, has been found to correlate with the potential for light-resource use, the relative growth rate of a plant, and differences in essential nutrient demand and habitat preference.

Scientists also have observed that the SLA of individual leaves varies within a single plant, and this measurement often correlates with leaf maturation and position within the canopy. More recently, scientists have discovered that, as a tree increases in size, its total canopy SLA decreasesthat is to say, its total leaf surface area fails to keep pace with increases in total leaf mass.

What causes this decrease in SLA as tree size increases has remained a mystery, but recent research by Cornell University scientists Karl Niklas and Edward Cobb published in the January issue of the American Journal of Botany (http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/97/1/27) provides an explanation for this decrease in SLA with an increase in tree size.

"The traditional explanation for the size-dependent decrease in SLA was never very satisfying," Niklas said. "We wanted to look at this phenomena in greater details with more care, and we found a totally different answer to a classic ecological question."

The commonly accepted hypothesis has been that decreasing SLA in trees of increasing size is a result of leaf-by-leaf acclimation to the local environment. Physical factors such as differences in light intensity are affected by differences in leaf position within the canopy, providing different local environments. Niklas and Cobb hypothesized that changes in SLA may be a result of changes in the relative numbers of different shoot types that produce leaves differing in SLAsa developmental shift that occurs as a tree increases in size.

Niklas and Cobb examined 15 red maple trees that differed in trunk size and found that the changes in SLA can be attributed to shoot type rather than to the location of the leaves within the canopy. As the trunk diameter increased, the number of short-shoots increased rapidly relative to the number of long-shoots. Detailed analyses of the largest tree demonstrated that short shoots, on average, produce leaves with smaller specific leaf areas than those produced by long shoots. Consequently, developmental shifts occurring at the shoot and whole plant level account for size-dependent decreases in total canopy SLA, rather than leaf-by-leaf acclimation to the local environment.

Mathematical models for the distribution of light within the canopy predict that the photosynthetic rate of the entire canopy is maximized when the specific leaf area is lowest for leaves at the top of the canopy. This research provides new insight into the mechanism by which trees have evolved to obtain light and photosynthesize at the greatest rate.

"Our research shows that plants are highly integrated organisms that respond to their environments in ways that are every bit as complex as even the most sophisticated animals," Niklas said. "This research also shows that we still have plenty to learn about phenomena that we thought we understood very well."


'/>"/>

Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Seeing Alzheimers amyloids
2. Crystal (eye) ball: Study says visual system equipped with future seeing powers
3. Seeing through the skin
4. Seeing stem cells helps in fight against peripheral arterial disease
5. Seeing the tree from the forest: Predicting the future of plant communities
6. Seeing previously invisible molecules for the first time
7. Seeing is relieving
8. Seeing without looking
9. Seeing how evolutionary mechanisms yield biological diversity
10. Seeing family for the holidays? Scientists discover how the stress might kill you
11. Tropical insects go the distance to inform rainforest conservation
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/23/2017)... N.Y. , June 23, 2017  IBM (NYSE: ... dairy research, today announced a new collaboration using next-generation ... chances that the global milk supply is impacted by ... Cornell University has become the newest academic institution to ... a food safety initiative that includes IBM Research, Mars, ...
(Date:5/16/2017)... DALLAS , May 16, 2017   ... for health organizations, and MD EMR Systems ... certified development partner for GE, have established a ... Patient Portal product and the GE Centricity™ products, ... Centricity EMR. These new integrations ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... 18, 2017  Socionext Inc., a global expert in SoC-based imaging ... server, the M820, which features the company,s hybrid codec technology. A ... Tera Probe, Inc., will be showcased during the upcoming Medtec Japan ... at the Las Vegas Convention Center April ... Click here for ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... San Diego-based ... of its corporate rebranding initiative announced today. The bold new look is part ... as the company moves into a significant growth period. , It will also expand ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... ... Dr. Bob Harman, founder and CEO of VetStem Biopharma, Inc. ... event entitled “Stem Cells and Their Regenerative Powers,” was held on August 31st, ... was joined by two human doctors: Peter B. Hanson, M.D., Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM ... firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu ... , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... ... The award-winning American Farmer television series will feature 3 Bar Biologics in ... 8:30aET on RFD-TV. , With global population estimates nearing ten billion people by ... feed a growing nation. At the same time, many of our valuable resources are ...
Breaking Biology Technology: