The influence of leaf anatomy on the internal light environment and photosynthetic electron transport rate: exploration with a new leaf ray tracing model

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Abstract

Leaf photosynthesis is determined by biochemical properties and anatomical features. Here we developed a three-dimensional leaf model that can be used to evaluate the internal light environment of a leaf and its implications for whole-leaf electron transport rates (J). This model includes (i) the basic components of a leaf, such as the epidermis, palisade and spongy tissues, as well as the physical dimensions and arrangements of cell walls, vacuoles and chloroplasts; and (ii) an efficient forward ray-tracing algorithm, predicting the internal light environment for light of wavelengths between 400 and 2500nm. We studied the influence of leaf anatomy and ambient light on internal light conditions and J. The results show that (i) different chloroplasts can experience drastically different light conditions, even when they are located at the same distance from the leaf surface; (ii) bundle sheath extensions, which are strips of parenchyma, collenchyma or sclerenchyma cells connecting the vascular bundles with the epidermis, can influence photosynthetic light-use efficiency of leaves; and (iii) chloroplast positioning can also influence the light-use efficiency of leaves. Mechanisms underlying leaf internal light heterogeneity and implications of the heterogeneity for photoprotection and for the convexity of the light response curves are discussed.

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