New Phytologist Editors' choice: December 2015, 208:4

Last updated: 6 Nov, 2015

Photosynthetic bark

New Phytologist has a rich history of publishing work on drought-induced forest mortality and stress, and this topic is more vital than ever as we see growing evidence of forest decline and tree mortality linked to global change associated droughts. In this issue of New Phytologist, Vandegehuchte et al. (pp. 998–1002) discuss the little-explored role of carbon fixation by woody tissue, and make a case for incorprating measurements of photosynthesis in woody tissues into drought stress experiments. This topic is explored further in the corresponding commentary by Cernusak & Cheesman (pp. 995–997) who highlight how this important feature of drought physiology of woody plants can pave the way for future research and investigation.


Figure 1 from Cernusak & Cheesman. A depiction of stem recycling photosynthesis in a woody plant. (a) The stem anatomy; the stem contains living cells in the sapwood, vascular cambium, and bark. These living cells respire CO2, which, along with CO2 translocated into the stem segment by the transpiration stream, diffuses to the atmosphere when the stem is in the dark (b). When illuminated, however, a portion of the respired CO2 is captured and recycled by the photosynthetic cells in the bark cortex (c).


Vandegehuchte MW, Bloemen J, Vergeynst LL, Steppe K. 2015. Woody tissue photosynthesis in trees: salve on the wounds of drought? New Phytologist 208: 998–1002.

Cernusak LA, Cheesman AW. 2015. The benefits of recycling: how photosynthetic bark can increase drought tolerance. New Phytologist 208: 995–997.


Nathan G. McDowell, Editor, New Phytologist

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos, NM, USA


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Originally posted 6 November 2015.