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  1. Crous, Kristine (Ed.)

    Herbivory can impact gas exchange, but the causes of interspecific variation in response remain poorly understood. We aimed to determine (1) what effects does experimental herbivory damage to leaf midveins have on leaf gas exchange and, (2) whether changes in leaf gas exchange after damage was predicted by leaf mechanical or venation traits. We hypothesized that herbivory-driven impacts on leaf gas exchange would be mediated by (1a/1b) venation networks, either by more vein resistance, or possibly trading off with other structural defenses; (2a/2b) or more reticulation (resilience, providing more alternate flow pathways after damage) or less reticulation (sectoriality, preventing spread of reduced functionality after damage). We simulated herbivory by damaging the midveins of four leaves from each of nine Sonoran Desert species. We then measured the percent change in photosynthesis (ΔAn%), transpiration (ΔEt%) and stomatal conductance (Δgsw%) between treated and control leaves. We assessed the relationship of each with leaf venation traits and other mechanical traits. ΔAn% varied between +10 % and −55%, similar to ΔEt% (+27%, −54%) and Δgsw% (+36%, −53%). There was no tradeoff between venation and other structural defenses. Increased damage resilience (reduced ΔAn%, ΔEt%, Δgsw%) was marginally associated with lower force-to-tear (P < 0.05), and higher minor vein density (P < 0.10) but not major vein density or reticulation. Leaf venation networks may thus partially mitigate the response of gas exchange to herbivory and other types of vein damage through either resistance or resilience.

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  2. Summary

    Plant water use theory has largely been developed within a plant‐performance paradigm that conceptualizes water use in terms of value for carbon gain and that sits within a neoclassical economic framework. This theory works very well in many contexts but does not consider other values of water to plants that could impact their fitness. Here, we survey a range of alternative hypotheses for drivers of water use and stomatal regulation. These hypotheses are organized around relevance to extreme environments, population ecology, and community ecology. Most of these hypotheses are not yet empirically tested and some are controversial (e.g. requiring more agency and behavior than is commonly believed possible for plants). Some hypotheses, especially those focused around using water to avoid thermal stress, using water to promote reproduction instead of growth, and using water to hoard it, may be useful to incorporate into theory or to implement in Earth System Models.

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  3. Summary

    Leaf vein network geometry can predict levels of resource transport, defence and mechanical support that operate at different spatial scales. However, it is challenging to quantify network architecture across scales due to the difficulties both in segmenting networks from images and in extracting multiscale statistics from subsequent network graph representations.

    Here we developed deep learning algorithms using convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to automatically segment leaf vein networks. Thirty‐eight CNNs were trained on subsets of manually defined ground‐truth regions from >700 leaves representing 50 southeast Asian plant families. Ensembles of six independently trained CNNs were used to segment networks from larger leaf regions (c. 100 mm2). Segmented networks were analysed using hierarchical loop decomposition to extract a range of statistics describing scale transitions in vein and areole geometry.

    The CNN approach gave a precision‐recall harmonic mean of 94.5% ± 6%, outperforming other current network extraction methods, and accurately described the widths, angles and connectivity of veins. Multiscale statistics then enabled the identification of previously undescribed variation in network architecture across species.

    We provide aLeafVeinCNNsoftware package to enable multiscale quantification of leaf vein networks, facilitating the comparison across species and the exploration of the functional significance of different leaf vein architectures.

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