Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Modelling Canopy Production. I. Optimal Distribution of Photosynthetic Resources

PJ Sands

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 22(4) 593 - 601
Published: 1995


On the basis of detailed numerical simulations, Field (1983. Oecologia 56, 341-347) stated that total canopy photosynthesis will be a maximum for a fixed total canopy leaf nitrogen provided the derivative δA/δN, where A is photosynthetic rate and N is leaf nitrogen concentration, has the same value throughout the canopy. This paper uses the calculus of variations to formally prove Field's assertion. It shows that if the single-leaf light response is a first-degree homogeneous function of both light-saturated photosynthetic rate Amax and intensity I of photosynthetically active radiation and if Amax is linearly related to N, then the optimal distribution of leaf nitrogen is linearly related to the decline in I with canopy depth, and Amax is proportional to this decline. The nature of photosynthetic gains due to optimisation of canopy nitrogen distribution is illustrated numerically for a simple model canopy. It is found that, for canopies with fixed mean leaf nitrogen, canopy photosynthesis is approximately proportional to canopy leaf area index (LAI), and the gain due to canopy optimisation compared with a uniform canopy is small for shallow canopies but pronounced for deep canopies. It is also found that, for canopies with fixed total leaf nitrogen, there is a canopy LAI which maximises canopy photosynthesis, and that this LAI and the corresponding canopy photosynthesis are approximately proportional to total canopy nitrogen.

© CSIRO 1995

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