Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2016-12-18 11:00:12
  • Article ID: 666677

New Leaf Study Sheds Light on 'Shady' Past

Berkeley Lab-led analysis concludes that global plant models may underestimate key plant traits

  • Credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net

    A rainforest in Puerto Rico viewed from the forest floor.

A new study led by a research scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) highlights a literally shady practice in plant science that has in some cases underestimated plants’ rate of growth and photosynthesis, among other traits.

The study, published Dec. 19 in Nature Plants, suggests that this problem may stem from a common tendency in fieldwork to report leaf measurements taken in partially shaded conditions as existing in more fully sunlit conditions.

As a result, global plant databases and models may require updating to better account for plant responses to full-sun conditions, said Trevor F. Keenan, a research scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area who led the study.

“Often when researchers are in the field, it’s hard to get to leaves at the top of trees,” Keenan said, particularly in densely vegetated areas such as tropical forests where the canopies can reach over 100 feet in height.

“In other cases, understory plants grow mostly in the shade, so it is impossible to sample in full sun. Traits vary quite a lot in the canopy, so if you don’t sample from the top all of your samples will be biased,” he said.

Study finds large light-dependent variations in leaf traits

In plant fieldwork, full-sun conditions are defined as those in which a plant receives the maximum amount of sunlight, typically at the top of a canopy, but most leaves do not grow in full-sun conditions.

Leaves at the bottom of the canopy in a tropical rainforest may receive 100 times less sunlight than those at the top of the canopy, Keenan said. And many leaf characteristics -- which are integral to vital leaf functions such as carbon uptake and photosynthesis -- can vary 20-fold between the top and bottom leaves on the same plant.

“For example, the highest concentration in nitrogen is at the top, where you have the most sunlight. Plants allocate a lot of nutrients there so they can ‘profit’ from it the most,” Keenan said.

Cutting to the root of a data problem

Keenan and Ülo Niinemets, a researcher from the Estonian University of Life Sciences and Estonian Academy of Sciences, evaluated leaf data from several databases -- covering hundreds of plant species and spanning most regions of the world -- in the latest study. They used data from those studies that reported extra information about the specific location of the sampled leaves in the canopy as a benchmark for other studies’ data. The research was conducted as Keenan and colleagues were assembling a new global database for plant research.

The misreported sun vs. shade conditions are likely most pronounced in tropical regions, Keenan said. Because these regions of tropical vegetation are also considered to be the planet’s largest “carbon sinks” in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, “These are some of the most important areas to focus on,” he said.

Better accounting of light conditions that sampled leaves are growing in could help to improve models that account for plants’ total rate of photosynthesis and better quantify their role as a carbon sink, for example, and for plants’ adaptability to changing conditions. It can also identify important correlations between which plant traits are most pronounced under different lighting conditions.

More accurate sampling methods can ultimately help improve scientists’ understanding of whole ecosystem structure and function, and to understand how plants respond to factors such as climate change, the study states.

In addition to improved reporting of sunlit conditions, there is also a need for better accounting of plant ages in field studies, as age may affect leaf chemistry and function, according to the study.

The study concludes that field studies must take more care in accurately reporting sunlit vs. shaded conditions and age-driven trait responses in leaves. “These results will hopefully help to improve field measurement strategies,” Keenan said.

Combining field data with simulations and theory

More standardized fieldwork, in parallel with new computational tools and theoretical work, will contribute to better global plant models, Keenan said. Researchers will likely tap the supercomputing capabilities of Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in upcoming modeling work.

“We really don’t know how plants are going to acclimate to a changing climate,” Keenan said, noting that Lab researchers are developing a theory for why plants acclimate and change their allocations of nutrients within the canopy. “We can use this to better understand why trait values vary.”

New techniques are emerging to improve data collection in the field, Keenan also said. The study notes that some field research has used a shotgun approach to sample leaves at the top of the canopy -- firing a shotgun to clip off leaves that are otherwise out of reach -- though this technique alters the water flow that exists in attached leaves, so it can affect photosynthesis measurements.

LIDAR, a laser-based mapping technology, has found more use in plant field work, Keenan noted, by providing 3-D images of forest structure, for example, and physics-based computer simulations are improving in their ability to model how leaves transfer energy from sunlight.

“There is definitely a path forward in technological and scientific advances, along with new measurement approaches,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done.”

NERSC is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. This work was supported by Berkeley Lab’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development fund and by DOE’s Office of Science.

# # #

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

X
X
X
  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Researchers Create Molecular Movie of Virus Preparing to Infect Healthy Cells

A research team has created for the first time a movie with nanoscale resolution of the three-dimensional changes a virus undergoes as it prepares to infect a healthy cell. The scientists analyzed thousands of individual snapshots from intense X-ray flashes, capturing the process in an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Nanotechnology Gives Green Energy a Green Color

Solar panels have tremendous potential to provide affordable renewable energy, but many people see traditional black and blue panels as an eyesore. Architects, homeowners and city planners may be more open to the technology if they could install colorful, efficient solar panels, and a new study, published this week in Applied Physics Letters, brings us one step closer. Researchers have developed a method for imprinting existing solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that scatter green light back toward an observer.

New 3-D Simulations Show How Galactic Centers Cool Their Jets

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Purdue University developed new theories and 3-D simulations to explain what's at work in the mysterious jets of energy and matter beaming from the center of galaxies at nearly the speed of light.

Are Your Tweets Feeling Well?

Study finds opinion and emotion in tweets change when you get sick, a method public health workers could use to track health trends.

"Getting to 80%" on Energy Cutbacks Cannot Occur Unless Behaviors Change

California's plan to cut energy consumption by 80 percent by 2050 cannot be achieved with current proposed policy changes because most solutions focus on changing technologies rather than changing behavior, a new UC Davis study suggests.

New Battery Material Goes with the Flow

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have engineered a new material to be used in redox flow batteries, which are particularly useful for storing electricity for the grid. The material consists of carefully structured molecules designed to be particularly electrochemically stable in order to prevent the battery from losing energy to unwanted reactions.

Simulation Demonstrates How Exposure to Plasma Makes Carbon Nanotubes Grow

PPPL research performed with collaborators from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has shown how plasma causes exceptionally strong, microscopic structures known as carbon nanotubes to grow.

Night Vision for Bird- & Bat-Friendly Offshore Wind Power

The ThermalTracker software analyzes video with night vision, the same technology that helps soldiers see in the dark, to help birds and bats near offshore wind turbines.

Drone Tech Offers New Ways to Manage Climate Change

An innovation providing key clues to how humans might manage forests and cities to cool the planet is taking flight. Cornell researchers are using drone technology to more accurately measure surface reflectivity on the landscape, a technological advance that could offer a new way to manage climate change.

Energy Efficiency Takes a 'Village'

The city of the future could start with a village - Missouri University of Science and Technology's Solar Village, to be exact. S&T researchers will study the Solar Village and its residents as their living laboratory over the next three years thanks to an $800,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funded as part of the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Physical System initiative. The research team is led by Dr. Simone Silvestri, principal investigator and assistant professor of computer science, and Dr. Denise Baker, co-principal investigator and assistant professor of psychological science


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Southern Research to Play Key Role in Low Cost Carbon Fiber Project

Southern Research's Energy & Environment division (E&E) will participate as a subcontractor to WRI to provide renewable acrylonitrile -- the key raw material needed to produce the highest quality carbon fibers -- produced from biomass-derived second generation sugars.

Newly Upgraded Laser Allows Scientists to Peer Further Into the Extreme Universe at SLAC's LCLS

Scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently upgraded a powerful optical laser system used to create shockwaves that generate high-pressure conditions like those found within planetary interiors. The laser system now delivers three times more energy for experiments with SLAC's ultrabright X-ray laser, providing a more powerful tool for probing extreme states of matter in our universe.

Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Selected to Receive Early Career Research Program Funding

Three scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been selected by DOE's Office of Science to receive significant research funding through its Early Career Research Program.

Upcoming 232nd ECS Meeting to Feature International Energy Summit, Nobel Laureate Lecture

The 232nd ECS Meeting will include 49 topical symposia and over 2,300 technical presentations, including the 7th International Electrochemical Energy Summit, the Society's inaugural OpenCon and Hack Day events, and plenary lecture delivered by former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Prize Laureate Steven Chu.

PNNL Scientist Jiwen Fan Receives DOE Early Career Research Award

Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been selected to receive a 2017 Early Career Research Program award from the U.S. Department of Energy. Fan will use the award to study severe thunderstorms in the central United States - storms that produce large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, and torrential rainfall.

Three SLAC Scientists Receive DOE Early Career Research Grants

Three scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will receive DOE Early Career Research Program grants for research to find evidence of cosmic inflation, understand how plasmas excite particles to high energies and develop a way to accelerate particles in much shorter distances with terahertz radiation.

Four ORNL Researchers Receive DOE Early Career Funding Awards

Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers specializing in nuclear physics, fusion energy, advanced materials and environmental science are among 59 recipients of Department of Energy's Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards.

Missouri S&T Professor Earns Patent for Energy Storage Technology

ceramic engineering professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology has received a federal patent for his latest innovation, a multi-layer ceramic capacitor that could help boost energy storage in applications ranging from pulse power devices to military hardware.

James Peery Named Chief Scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

James Peery, who has led critical national security programs at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been selected as the chief scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Franklin Fuller and Cornelius Gati Named 2017 Panofsky Fellows at SLAC

Franklin Fuller and Cornelius Gati have been awarded 2017 Panofsky Fellowships by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where they will work over the next five years to get significantly more information about how catalysts work and develop new and improved biological imaging methods.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Physicists Move Closer to Listening in on Sub-Atomic Conversation

Calculations of a subatomic particle called the sigma provide insight into the communication between subatomic particles deep inside the heart of matter.

Meet the Director: Chuck Black

This is a continuing profile series on the directors of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facilities. These scientists lead a variety of research institutions that provide researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science including accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, light sources and neutron sources, as well as facilities for studying the nano world, the environment, and the atmosphere.

Making an Ultra-small Silicon "Chip"

A new polymer, created with a structure inspired by crystalline silicon, may make it easier to build better computers and solar cells.

How to Keep a Vital Diagnostic Isotope in Stock

Researchers succeed in producing larger quantities of a long-lived radioisotope, titanium-44, that generates a needed isotope, scandium-44g, on demand.

When Strontium Is Away, Iridium Comes Out to Play

Developing a highly active and acid-stable catalyst for water splitting could significantly impact solar energy technologies.

On Track Towards a Zika Virus Vaccine

Antibody's molecular structure reveals how it recognizes the Zika virus

Quantum Computing Building Blocks

Scientists invented an approach to creating ordered patterns of nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds, a promising approach to storing and computing quantum data.

Scientists Program Yeast to Turn Plant Sugars into Biodiesel

Redox metabolism was engineered in Yarrowia lipolytica to increase the availability of reducing molecules needed for lipid production.

Soils Could Release Much More Carbon than Expected as Climate Warms

Deeper soil layers are more sensitive to warming than previously thought.

Weaving a Fermented Path to Nylons

Microbial enzymes create precursors of nylon while avoiding harsh chemicals and energy-demanding heat.


Spotlight

Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday November 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

Friday April 15, 2011, 12:25 PM

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

American University

Thursday February 10, 2011, 05:00 PM

ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

University of Chicago

Tuesday December 07, 2010, 05:00 PM

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

University of California San Diego

Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

Ithaca College

Tuesday July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM

Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

Creighton University

Wednesday May 05, 2010, 09:30 AM

National Engineering Program Seeks Subject Matter Experts in Energy

JETS Junior Engineering Technical Society

Wednesday April 21, 2010, 12:30 PM

Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday March 03, 2010, 07:00 PM

Helping Hydrogen: Student Inventor Tackles Challenge of Hydrogen Storage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday February 04, 2010, 02:00 PM

Turning Exercise into Electricity

Furman University

Thursday November 12, 2009, 12:45 PM

Campus Leaders Showing the Way to a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Tuesday November 03, 2009, 04:20 PM

Furman University Receives $2.5 Million DOE Grant for Geothermal Project

Furman University

Thursday September 17, 2009, 02:45 PM

Could Sorghum Become a Significant Alternative Fuel Source?

Salisbury University

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 11:15 AM

Students Navigating the Hudson River With Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 10:00 AM

College Presidents Flock to D.C., Urge Senate to Pass Clean Energy Bill

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Wednesday July 01, 2009, 04:15 PM

Northeastern Announces New Professional Master's in Energy Systems

Northeastern University

Friday October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM

Kansas Rural Schools To Receive Wind Turbines

Kansas State University

Thursday August 17, 2006, 05:30 PM

High Gas Prices Here to Stay, Says Engineering Professor

Rowan University

Wednesday May 17, 2006, 06:45 PM

Time Use Expert's 7-Year Fight for Better Gas Mileage

University of Maryland, College Park





Showing results

0-4 Of 2215