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How Plants Cool Off

May 22, 2012

Although scientists have made significant advances in understanding how plants elongate at high temperature, little is known of the physiological consequences of this response. To investigate these consequences, the researchers, led by Dr Kerry Franklin and Professor Alistair Hetherington in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, studied thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a small flowering plant which is a popular model species in plant biology and genetics.

When grown at higher temperatures, plants have an elongated, spindly architecture and develop fewer leaf pores, known as stomata. However, in spite of having a reduced number of stomata, the elongated Arabidopsis thaliana plants grown by the team displayed greater water loss and leaf evaporative cooling.

The researchers suggest that the increased spacing of leaves observed in high temperature-grown plants may promote the diffusion of water vapor from stomata, thereby enhancing the cooling process.

Dr Franklin said: “Temperature and water availability are major factors affecting plant yield. Understanding the relationship between temperature, plant architecture and water use is therefore essential for maximizing future crop production and ensuring food security in a changing climate.”

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