Leaf Hydraulics and Photosynthesis
Our research focuses on leaves, exploring the extraordinary coordination between water supply tissues (xylem veins) and those responsible for regulating water loss (the stomata). We find enormous differences in the capacity of species to supply water to their leaves, and that evolution has favoured those groups able to make high densities of veins in leaves. Reconstructing the history of leaf veins from ancestral relatives and fossils we find that the rise of flowering plants in the Cretaceous was associated with a surge in vein densities never before seen on Earth.
The goal of our ongoing research is to describe how the anatomy of the leaf vascular system affects the physiology of water and energy flow in leaves. This work is providing new understanding of the interaction of anatomy and ecology, driven by the centrally important water transport system of leaves.