Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Relative importance of transpiration rate and leaf morphological traits for the regulation of leaf temperature

Madalena Vaz Monteiro A , Tijana Blanuša A B E , Anne Verhoef C , Paul Hadley A and Ross W. F. Cameron D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, RG6 6AR, UK.

B Royal Horticultural Society, Plant Sciences Department, Garden Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB, UK.

C Department of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, RG6 6AB, UK.

D Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK.

E Corresponding author. Email: tijanablanusa@rhs.org.uk

Australian Journal of Botany 64(1) 32-44 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT15198
Submitted: 29 August 2015  Accepted: 16 November 2015   Published: 12 February 2016

Abstract

Urban greening solutions such as green roofs help improve residents’ thermal comfort and building insulation. However, not all plants provide the same level of cooling. This is partially due to differences in plant structure and function, including different mechanisms that plants employ to regulate leaf temperature. Ranking of multiple leaf and plant traits involved in the regulation of leaf temperature (and, consequently, plants’ cooling ‘service’) is not well understood. We, therefore, investigated the relative importance of water loss, leaf colour, thickness and extent of pubescence for the regulation of leaf temperature, in the context of species for semi-extensive green roofs. Leaf temperature was measured with an infrared imaging camera in a range of contrasting genotypes within three plant genera (Heuchera, Salvia and Sempervivum). In three glasshouse experiments (each evaluating three or four genotypes of each genus), we varied water availability to the plants and assessed how leaf temperature altered depending on water loss and specific leaf traits. Greatest reductions in leaf temperature were closely associated with higher water loss. Additionally, in non-succulents (Heuchera, Salvia), lighter leaf colour and longer hair length (on pubescent leaves) both contributed to reduced leaf temperature. However, in succulent Sempervivum, colour and pubescence made no significant contribution; leaf thickness and rate of water loss were the key regulating factors. We propose that this can lead to different plant types having significantly different potentials for cooling. We suggest that maintaining transpirational water loss by sustainable irrigation and selecting urban plants with favourable morphological traits are the key to maximising thermal benefits provided by applications such as green roofs.

Additional keywords: leaf colour, leaf hairs, leaf temperature, leaf thickness, water deficit, water loss.


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