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  1. Leaf hydraulic networks play an important role not only in fluid transport but also in maintaining whole-plant water status through transient environmental changes in soil-based water supply or air humidity. Both water potential and hydraulic resistance vary spatially throughout the leaf transport network, consisting of xylem, stomata and water-storage cells, and portions of the leaf areas far from the leaf base can be disproportionately disadvantaged under water stress. Besides the suppression of transpiration and reduction of water loss caused by stomatal closure, the leaf capacitance of water storage, which can also vary locally, is thought to be crucial for the maintenance of leaf water status. In order to study the fluid dynamics in these networks, we develop a spatially explicit, capacitive model which is able to capture the local spatiotemporal changes of water potential and flow rate in monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous leaves. In electrical-circuit analogs described by Ohm's law, we implement linear capacitors imitating water storage, and we present both analytical calculations of a uniform one-dimensional model and numerical simulation methods for general spatially explicit network models, and their relation to conventional lumped-element models. Calculation and simulation results are shown for the uniform model, which mimics key properties of a monocotyledonous grass leaf. We illustrate water status of a well-watered leaf, and the lowering of water potential and transpiration rate caused by excised water source or reduced air humidity. We show that the time scales of these changes under water stress are hugely affected by leaf capacitance and resistances to capacitors, in addition to stomatal resistance. Through this modeling of a grass leaf, we confirm the presence of uneven water distribution over leaf area, and also discuss the importance of considering the spatial variation of leaf hydraulic traits in plant biology. 
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  2. Summary

    Evolutionary history plays a key role driving patterns of trait variation across plant species. For scaling and modeling purposes, grass species are typically organized into C3vs C4plant functional types (PFTs). Plant functional type groupings may obscure important functional differences among species. Rather, grouping grasses by evolutionary lineage may better represent grass functional diversity.

    We measured 11 structural and physiological traitsin situfrom 75 grass species within the North American tallgrass prairie. We tested whether traits differed significantly among photosynthetic pathways or lineages (tribe) in annual and perennial grass species.

    Critically, we found evidence that grass traits varied among lineages, including independent origins of C4photosynthesis. Using a rigorous model selection approach, tribe was included in the top models for five of nine traits for perennial species. Tribes were separable in a multivariate and phylogenetically controlled analysis of traits, owing to coordination of important structural and ecophysiological characteristics.

    Our findings suggest grouping grass species by photosynthetic pathway overlooks variation in several functional traits, particularly for C4species. These results indicate that further assessment of lineage‐based differences at other sites and across other grass species distributions may improve representation of C4species in trait comparison analyses and modeling investigations.

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  3. Summary

    Plant morphology and physiology change with growth and development. Some of these changes are due to change in plant size and some are the result of genetically programmed developmental transitions. In this study we investigate the role of the developmental transition, vegetative phase change (VPC), on morphological and photosynthetic changes.

    We used overexpression of microRNA156, the master regulator of VPC, to modulate the timing of VPC inPopulus tremula × alba,Zea mays, andArabidopsis thalianato determine its role in trait variation independent of changes in size and overall age.

    Here, we find that juvenile and adult leaves in all three species photosynthesize at different rates and that these differences are due to phase‐dependent changes in specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf N but not photosynthetic biochemistry. Further, we found juvenile leaves with high SLA were associated with better photosynthetic performance at low light levels.

    This study establishes a role for VPC in leaf composition and photosynthetic performance across diverse species and environments. Variation in leaf traits due to VPC are likely to provide distinct benefits under specific environments; as a result, selection on the timing of this transition could be a mechanism for environmental adaptation.

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  4. Abstract

    Understanding spatial and temporal variation in plant traits is needed to accurately predict how communities and ecosystems will respond to global change. The National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON’s) Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) provides hyperspectral images and associated data products at numerous field sites at 1 m spatial resolution, potentially allowing high‐resolution trait mapping. We tested the accuracy of readily available data products of NEON’s AOP, such as Leaf Area Index (LAI), Total Biomass, Ecosystem Structure (Canopy height model [CHM]), and Canopy Nitrogen, by comparing them to spatially extensive field measurements from a mesic tallgrass prairie. Correlations with AOP data products exhibited generally weak or no relationships with corresponding field measurements. The strongest relationships were between AOP LAI and ground‐measured LAI (r = 0.32) and AOP Total Biomass and ground‐measured biomass (r = 0.23). We also examined how well the full reflectance spectra (380–2,500 nm), as opposed to derived products, could predict vegetation traits using partial least‐squares regression (PLSR) models. Among all the eight traits examined, only Nitrogen had a validation of more than 0.25. For all vegetation traits, validation ranged from 0.08 to 0.29 and the range of the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) was 14–64%. Our results suggest that currently available AOP‐derived data products should not be used without extensive ground‐based validation. Relationships using the full reflectance spectra may be more promising, although careful consideration of field and AOP data mismatches in space and/or time, biases in field‐based measurements or AOP algorithms, and model uncertainty are needed. Finally, grassland sites may be especially challenging for airborne spectroscopy because of their high species diversity within a small area, mixed functional types of plant communities, and heterogeneous mosaics of disturbance and resource availability. Remote sensing observations are one of the most promising approaches to understanding ecological patterns across space and time. But the opportunity to engage a diverse community of NEON data users will depend on establishing rigorous links with in‐situ field measurements across a diversity of sites.

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  5. Summary

    Canopy temperatureTcanis a key driver of plant function that emerges as a result of interacting biotic and abiotic processes and properties. However, understanding controls onTcanand forecasting canopy responses to weather extremes and climate change are difficult due to sparse measurements ofTcanat appropriate spatial and temporal scales. Burgeoning observations ofTcanfrom thermal cameras enable evaluation of energy budget theory and better understanding of how environmental controls, leaf traits and canopy structure influence temperature patterns. The canopy scale is relevant for connecting to remote sensing and testing biosphere model predictions. We anticipate that future breakthroughs in understanding of ecosystem responses to climate change will result from multiscale observations ofTcanacross a range of ecosystems.

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  6. Summary

    Process‐based vegetation models attempt to represent the wide range of trait variation in biomes by grouping ecologically similar species into plant functional types (PFTs). This approach has been successful in representing many aspects of plant physiology and biophysics but struggles to capture biogeographic history and ecological dynamics that determine biome boundaries and plant distributions. Grass‐dominated ecosystems are broadly distributed across all vegetated continents and harbour large functional diversity, yet most Land Surface Models (LSMs) summarise grasses into two generic PFTs based primarily on differences between temperate C3grasses and (sub)tropical C4grasses. Incorporation of species‐level trait variation is an active area of research to enhance the ecological realism of PFTs, which form the basis for vegetation processes and dynamics in LSMs. Using reported measurements, we developed grass functional trait values (physiological, structural, biochemical, anatomical, phenological, and disturbance‐related) of dominant lineages to improve LSM representations. Our method is fundamentally different from previous efforts, as it uses phylogenetic relatedness to create lineage‐based functional types (LFTs), situated between species‐level trait data and PFT‐level abstractions, thus providing a realistic representation of functional diversity and opening the door to the development of new vegetation models.

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