A model of dynamics of leaves and nitrogen in a plant canopy: An integration of canopy photosynthesis, leaf life span, and nitrogen use efficiency

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Abstract

A model of dynamics of leaves and nitrogen is developed to predict the effect of environmental and ecophysiological factors on the structure and photosynthesis of a plant canopy. In the model, leaf area in the canopy increases by the production of new leaves, which is proportional to the canopy photosynthetic rate, with canopy nitrogen increasing with uptake of nitrogen from soil. Then the optimal leaf area index (LAI; leaf area per ground area) that maximizes canopy photosynthesis is calculated. If leaf area is produced in excess, old leaves are eliminated with their nitrogen as dead leaves. Consequently, a new canopy having an optimal LAI and an optimal amount of nitrogen is obtained. Repeating these processes gives canopy growth. The model provides predictions of optimal LAI, canopy photosynthetic rates, leaf life span, nitrogen use efficiency, and also the responses of these factors to changes in nitrogen and light availability. Canopies are predicted to have a larger LAI and a higher canopy photosynthetic rate at a steady state under higher nutrient and/or light availabilities. Effects of species characteristics, such as photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency and leaf mass per area, are also evaluated. The model predicts many empirically observed patterns for ecophysiological traits across species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-164
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume162
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Aug 1

Keywords

  • Canopy structure
  • Environmental response
  • Interspecific difference
  • Leaf turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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