Journal Article

Plant Light Interception Can Be Explained via Computed Tomography Scanning: Demonstration with Pyramidal Cedar (<i>Thuja occidentalis</i>, Fastigiata)

Pierre Dutilleul, Liwen Han and Donald L. Smith

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 101, issue 1, pages 19-23
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcm273
Plant Light Interception Can Be Explained via Computed Tomography Scanning: Demonstration with Pyramidal Cedar (Thuja occidentalis, Fastigiata)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Light interception by the leaf canopy is a key aspect of plant photosynthesis, which helps mitigate the greenhouse effect via atmospheric CO2 recycling. The relationship between plant light interception and leaf area was traditionally modelled with the Beer–Lambert law, until the spatial distribution of leaves was incorporated through the fractal dimension of leafless plant structure photographed from the side allowing maximum appearance of branches and petioles. However, photographs of leafless plants are two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional structures, and sampled plants were cut at the stem base before leaf blades were detached manually, so canopy development could not be followed for individual plants. Therefore, a new measurement and modelling approach were developed to explain plant light interception more completely and precisely, based on appropriate processing of computed tomography (CT) scanning data collected for developing canopies.

Methods

Three-dimensional images of canopies were constructed from CT scanning data. Leaf volumes (LV) were evaluated from complete canopy images, and fractal dimensions (FD) were estimated from skeletonized leafless images. The experimental plant species is pyramidal cedar (Thuja occidentalis, Fastigiata).

Key Results

The three-dimensional version of the Beer–Lambert law based on FD alone provided a much better explanation of plant light interception (R2 = 0·858) than those using the product LV*FD (0·589) or LV alone (0·548). While values of all three regressors were found to increase over time, FD in the Beer–Lambert law followed the increase in light interception the most closely. The delayed increase of LV reflected the appearance of new leaves only after branches had lengthened and ramified.

Conclusions

The very strong correlation obtained with FD demonstrates that CT scanning data contain fundamental information about the canopy architecture geometry. The model can be used to identify crops and plantation trees with improved light interception and productivity.

Keywords: Beer–Lambert law; branching pattern; computed tomography scanning; foliage volume; fractal dimension; light interception; photosynthesis; plant structure; pyramidal cedar

Journal Article.  2606 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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