Full text in PDF
We introduce the simultaneous optimisation of water-use efficiency and nitrogen-use efficiency of canopy photosynthesis. As a vehicle for this idea we consider the optimal leaf area for a plant in which there is no self-shading among leaves. An emergent result is that canopy assimilation over a day is a scaled sum of daily water use and of photosynthetic nitrogen display. The respective scaling factors are the marginal carbon benefits of extra transpiration and extra such nitrogen, respectively. The simple approach successfully predicts that as available water increases, or evaporative demand decreases, the leaf area should increase, with a concomitant reduction in nitrogen per unit leaf area. The changes in stomatal conductance are therefore less than would occur if leaf area were not to change. As irradiance increases, the modelled leaf area decreases, and nitrogen/leaf area increases. As total available nitrogen increases, leaf area also increases. In all the examples examined, the sharing by leaf area and properties per unit leaf area means that predicted changes in either are less than if predicted in isolation. We suggest that were plant density to be included, it too would further share the response, further diminishing the changes required per unit leaf area.