Dohyoung Kim, Carmela R. Guadagno, Brent E. Ewers, D. Scott Mackay

Combining PSII photochemistry and hydraulics improves predictions of photosynthesis and water use from mild to lethal drought

  • Plant Science
  • Physiology

AbstractRising temperatures and increases in drought negatively impact the efficiency and sustainability of both agricultural and forest ecosystems. Although hydraulic limitations on photosynthesis have been extensively studied, a solid understanding of the links between whole plant hydraulics and photosynthetic processes at the cellular level under changing environmental conditions is still missing, hampering our predictive power for plant mortality. Here, we examined plant hydraulic traits and CO2 assimilation rate under progressive water limitation by implementing Photosystem II (PSII) dynamics with a whole plant process model (TREES). The photosynthetic responses to plant water status were parameterized based on measurements of chlorophyll a fluorescence, gas exchange and water potential for Brassica rapa (R500) grown in a greenhouse under fully watered to lethal drought conditions. The updated model significantly improved predictions of photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and leaf water potential. TREES with PSII knowledge predicted a larger hydraulic safety margin and a decrease in percent loss of conductivity. TREES predicted a slower decrease in leaf water potential, which agreed with measurements. Our results highlight the pressing need for incorporating PSII drought photochemistry into current process models to capture cross‐scale plant water dynamics from cell to whole plant level.

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