Behind the Cover: New Phytologist 219:3, August 2018

It’s been hot, hasn’t it?

While many of us have been enjoying the sunshine, long dry spells are a challenge for plants. The way in which plants control the water content in their leaves is a critical part of their response to climate change.

Researchers are finding out more about the ways that plants reduce transpiration rates when their leaves dry out. The photo, taken by Charlie Koven, on the cover of New Phytologist 219:3, shows one simple strategy for reducing water loss: by curling up and avoiding direct sunlight.

Image: Dry leaves in the understory, ZF2 forest, Manaus, Brazil. Courtesy of Charlie Coven.
Dry leaves in the understory, ZF2 forest, Manaus, Brazil. Courtesy of Charlie Coven.

Charlie took the photo in September 2015, near Manaus, Brazil, during the El Niño-enhanced dry season, when the forest was quite dry.

“I thought that the way [the leaves] had curled up to minimise their light-capturing surface was a nice visualisation of the response of these trees to the dry conditions.”

The aim of Charlie’s research is to understand how ecosystems interact with climate change. He does this by building numerical models, testing them against observations, then exploring their dynamics and implications for the global carbon cycle and climate system.

The way that leaf tissue water content reacts to drought is a critical part of the responses of plants to climate change. Charlie and his colleagues are trying to build this into the next generation of Earth system models.

Issue 219:3 of New Phytologist is a Feature issue all about the impact of drought on tropical forests. You can read the specially selected papers here.

Read the Editorial: McDowell, N. G. (2018) Deriving pattern from complexity in the processes underlying tropical forest drought impacts. New Phytologist 219:3, 841-844. doi: 10.1111/nph.15341

Mike Whitfield
Development Coordinator
New Phytologist Trust