Global variation in the fraction of leaf nitrogen allocated to photosynthesis

Xiangzhong Luo, Trevor F. Keenan, Jing M. Chen, Holly Croft, I. Colin Prentice, Nicholas G. Smith, Anthony P. Walker, Han Wang, Rong Wang, Chonggang Xu, Yao Zhang

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18 Scopus citations


Plants invest a considerable amount of leaf nitrogen in the photosynthetic enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (RuBisCO), forming a strong coupling of nitrogen and photosynthetic capacity. Variability in the nitrogen-photosynthesis relationship indicates different nitrogen use strategies of plants (i.e., the fraction nitrogen allocated to RuBisCO; fLNR), however, the reason for this remains unclear as widely different nitrogen use strategies are adopted in photosynthesis models. Here, we use a comprehensive database of in situ observations, a remote sensing product of leaf chlorophyll and ancillary climate and soil data, to examine the global distribution in fLNR using a random forest model. We find global fLNR is 18.2 ± 6.2%, with its variation largely driven by negative dependence on leaf mass per area and positive dependence on leaf phosphorus. Some climate and soil factors (i.e., light, atmospheric dryness, soil pH, and sand) have considerable positive influences on fLNR regionally. This study provides insight into the nitrogen-photosynthesis relationship of plants globally and an improved understanding of the global distribution of photosynthetic potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4866
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


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