Nitrogen controls plant canopy light-use efficiency in temperate and boreal ecosystems

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Optimum daily light-use efficiency (LUE) and normalized canopy photosynthesis (GEE*) rate, a proxy for LUE, have been derived from eddy covariance CO2 flux measurements obtained at a range of sites located in the mid to high latitudes. These two variables were analyzed with respect to environmental conditions, plant functional types (PFT) and leaf nitrogen concentration, in an attempt to characterize their variability and their potential drivers. LUE averaged 0.0182 mol/mol with a coefficient of variation of 37% (42% for GEE*). Foliar nitrogen N of the dominant plant species was found to explain 71% of LUE (n = 26) and 62% of GEE* (n = 44) variance, across all PFTs and sites. Mean Annual Temperature, MAT, explained 27% of LUE variance, and the two factors (MAT and N) combined in a simple linear model explain 80% of LUE and 76% GEE* variance. These results showed that plant canopies in the temperate, boreal and arctic zones fit into a general scheme closely related to the one, which had been established for plant leaves worldwide. The N-MAT- LUE relationships offer perspectives for LUE-based models of terrestrial photosynthesis based on remote sensing. On a continental scale, the decrease of LUE from the temperate to the arctic zone found in the data derived from flux measurements is not in line with LUE resulting from inversion of atmospheric CO2.


  • Laurent Kergoat
  • Sebastien Lafont
  • Almut Arneth
  • Valerie Le Dantec
  • Bernard Saugier
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G04017
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberG4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch