Environmental impacts on plant photosynthetic processes

17 July 2019

Understanding the environmental impacts on plant photosynthetic processes, especially adaptations to different climates, informs ecosystem adaptation and resilience through plant processes affecting carbon and water fluxes. 

Plant & Food Research scientist, Dr Shuang-Xi Zhou, in collaboration with renowned global scientists, recently published two papers on understanding the quantitative relationships between photosynthetic processes and the environment. These experimental observations contribute to refining process-based models to better understand photosynthetic processes in plants.

The first paper looked at what and how experimentally-derived quantitative information can improve the representation in large-scale vegetation models of photosynthetic responses to drought. The study highlighted the importance of taking differential drought sensitivity of different vegetation into account to avoid over-estimating the drought impacts on vegetation in drier climates.

The second paper examined whether global photosynthetic capacity is optimized to the environment, using an observation-modelling inter-comparison approach and observations from 201 sites across the globe. Scientists in this study concluded that, through acclimation and/or adaptation, plants leaves assimilated carbon in an efficient manner, preferentially allocating resources to rate-limiting processes and maximizing the potential resource use for plant growth and reproduction.

The findings of both studies suggest plants are subject to Darwinian selection and can adjust genetically or phenotypically to their environment to maximize fitness.


Journal references: 

Zhou S, Prentice C, Medlyn B 2019. Bridging drought experiment and modelling: representing the differential sensitivities of leaf gas exchange to drought. Frontiers in Plant Science. Doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01965.

Smith N, Keenan T, Prentice C, Wang H, Wright I, Niinemets Ü, Crous K, Domingues T, Guerrieri R, Ishida Y, Kattge J, Kruger E, Maire V, Rogers A, Serbin S, Tarvainen L, Togashi H, Townsend P, Wang M, Weerasinghe L, Zhou S 2019. Global photosynthetic capacity is optimized to the environment. Ecology Letters. Doi: 10.1111/ele.13210.