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Optimization can provide the fundamental link between leaf photosynthesis, gas exchange and water relations

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 09:42 authored by Deans, RM, Timothy BrodribbTimothy Brodribb, Busch, FA, Farquhar, GD
Tight coordination in the photosynthetic, gas exchange and water supply capacities of leaves is a globally conserved trend across land plants. Strong selective constraints on leaf carbon gain create the opportunity to use quantitative optimization theory to understand the connected evolution of leaf photosynthesis and water relations. We developed an analytical optimization model that maximizes the long-term rate of leaf carbon gain, given the carbon costs in building and maintaining stomata, leaf hydraulics and osmotic pressure. Our model demonstrates that selection for optimal gain should drive coordination between key photosynthetic, gas exchange and water relations traits. It also provides predictions of adaptation to drought and the relative costs of key leaf functional traits. Our results show that optimization in terms of carbon gain, given the carbon costs of physiological traits, successfully unites leaf photosynthesis and water relations and provides a quantitative framework to consider leaf functional evolution and adaptation.


Publication title

Nature Plants








School of Natural Sciences


Nature Publishing Group

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

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    University Of Tasmania