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This content will become publicly available on September 20, 2023

Title: No evidence of canopy-scale leaf thermoregulation to cool leaves below air temperature across a range of forest ecosystems
Understanding and predicting the relationship between leaf temperature ( T leaf ) and air temperature ( T air ) is essential for projecting responses to a warming climate, as studies suggest that many forests are near thermal thresholds for carbon uptake. Based on leaf measurements, the limited leaf homeothermy hypothesis argues that daytime T leaf is maintained near photosynthetic temperature optima and below damaging temperature thresholds. Specifically, leaves should cool below T air at higher temperatures (i.e., > ∼25–30°C) leading to slopes <1 in T leaf / T air relationships and substantial carbon uptake when leaves are cooler than air. This hypothesis implies that climate warming will be mitigated by a compensatory leaf cooling response. A key uncertainty is understanding whether such thermoregulatory behavior occurs in natural forest canopies. We present an unprecedented set of growing season canopy-level leaf temperature ( T can ) data measured with thermal imaging at multiple well-instrumented forest sites in North and Central America. Our data do not support the limited homeothermy hypothesis: canopy leaves are warmer than air during most of the day and only cool below air in mid to late afternoon, leading to T can / T air slopes >1 and hysteretic more » behavior. We find that the majority of ecosystem photosynthesis occurs when canopy leaves are warmer than air. Using energy balance and physiological modeling, we show that key leaf traits influence leaf-air coupling and ultimately the T can / T air relationship. Canopy structure also plays an important role in T can dynamics. Future climate warming is likely to lead to even greater T can , with attendant impacts on forest carbon cycling and mortality risk. « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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