Optimal nitrogen distribution within a leaf canopy under direct and diffuse light

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Nitrogen distribution within a leaf canopy is an important determinant of canopy carbon gain. Previous theoretical studies have predicted that canopy photosynthesis is maximized when the amount of photosynthetic nitrogen is proportionally allocated to the absorbed light. However, most of such studies used a simple Beer's law for light extinction to calculate optimal distribution, and it is not known whether this holds true when direct and diffuse light are considered together. Here, using an analytical solution and model simulations, optimal nitrogen distribution is shown to be very different between models using Beer's law and direct-diffuse light. The presented results demonstrate that optimal nitrogen distribution under direct-diffuse light is steeper than that under diffuse light only. The whole-canopy carbon gain is considerably increased by optimizing nitrogen distribution compared with that in actual canopies in which nitrogen distribution is not optimized. This suggests that optimization of nitrogen distribution can be an effective target trait for improving plant productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2077-2085
Number of pages9
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sept


  • Canopy photosynthesis
  • Light distribution
  • Model
  • Nitrogen allocation
  • Nitrogen use
  • Optimization


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