Sunflecks in the crops & forests

Fast fluctuations in light condition plant photosynthesis within canopies of crops and in forests. In a series of recent publications, we consider both the dynamics of these changes in illumination and what they mean for plant photosynthesis.

In crop canopies movements in the wind create extremely fast fluctuations defined as windflecks, while in forests the greater canopy depth means that differences in spectral composition between sunflecks and shade can be important for the ecophysiology of photosynthesis and its induction.

Our three recent publications below take the first steps towards describing the processes involved at the canopy level. They (1) defines sunflecks, (2) explain how they are modified by (5) a crop canopy and (4) a forest canopy. We also consider how (3) leaf morphology, (6) pigmentation and senescence change when we manipulate light quality under the canopy.

(1) Durand M, Matule B, Burgess A, Robson TM (2021) A method to identify and measure sunfleck properties from irradiance time series of fluctuating light in agricultural crop canopies. Ag. For Met. 308-309 108554

(2) Burgess AJ, Durand M, Gibbs JA, Retkute R, Robson TM*, Murchie EH*. (2021) The effect of canopy architecture on the patterning of ‘windflecks’ within a wheat canopy. Plant Cell and Environment, 4411), 3524– 3537

(3) Wang Q-W, Liu C, Robson TM, Hikosaka K, Kurokawa H (2021) Leaf density and chemical composition explain variation in leaf mass area with spectral composition among 11 widespread forbs in a common garden. Physiologia Plantarum. 173: 698–708

(4) Durand M, Stangl ZR, Salmon Y, Burgess AJ, Murchie EH, and RobsonTM. (2022) Sunflecks in the upper canopy: dynamics of light-use efficiency in sun and shade leaves of Fagus sylvatica. New Phytologist. 235:1365–1378. Major Revision 04/03/2022, Accepted 08/05/2022.

(5) Durand M, Robson TM (2023) Canopy architecture determines how wind affects sunflecks. Revised for New Phytologist, 08/01/2023.

(6) Brelsford CC, Trasser M, Paris T, Hartikainen SM, Robson TM. (2022) Understorey light quality influences leaf pigments and leaf phenology in different plant functional types. Physiologia Plantarum, 174( 3), e13723.

Monitoring understorey traits
Craig Brelsford of the University of Helsinki, CanSEE group scores spring phenology in the CostE52 European beech provenance trial in La Rioja Spain

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