Emerging approaches to measure photosynthesis from the leaf to the ecosystem

Matthew H. Siebers, Nuria Gomez-Casanovas, Peng Fu, Katherine Meacham-Hensold, Caitlin E. Moore, Carl J. Bernacchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Measuring photosynthesis is critical for quantifying and modeling leaf to regional scale productivity of managed and natural ecosystems. This review explores existing and novel advances in photosynthesis measurements that are certain to provide innovative directions in plant science research. First, we address gas exchange approaches from leaf to ecosystem scales. Leaf level gas exchange is a mature method but recent improvements to the user interface and environmental controls of commercial systems have resulted in faster and higher quality data collection. Canopy chamber and micrometeorological methods have also become more standardized tools and have an advanced understanding of ecosystem functioning under a changing environment and through long time series data coupled with community data sharing. Second, we review proximal and remote sensing approaches to measure photosynthesis, including hyperspectral reflectance- A nd fluorescence-based techniques. These techniques have long been used with aircraft and orbiting satellites, but lower-cost sensors and improved statistical analyses are allowing these techniques to become applicable at smaller scales to quantify changes in the underlying biochemistry of photosynthesis. Within the past decade measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence from earth-orbiting satellites have measured Solar Induced Fluorescence (SIF) enabling estimates of global ecosystem productivity. Finally, we highlight that stronger interactions of scientists across disciplines will benefit our capacity to accurately estimate productivity at regional and global scales. Applying the multiple techniques outlined in this review at scales from the leaf to the globe are likely to advance understanding of plant functioning from the organelle to the ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-274
Number of pages14
JournalEmerging topics in life sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine


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