Image: Stomatal design principles in synthetic and real leaves

November 7, 2016, The Royal Society
Credit: The Royal Society

This black and white image is an SEM micrograph of the underside of a blue giant hyssop, a plant in the mint family.

The spiky bits are hairs. The round blobs being engulfed by the hairs (look closely, there are several) are glands holding essential oils which are secreted to deter insects and animals, and to attract pollinators. The small sausage-shaped openings scattered across the surface are stomata; these pores are used for gas exchange, allowing carbon dioxide in for photosynthesis.

The image accompanied a submission to Journal of the Royal Society Interface called 'Stomatal design principles in synthetic and real leaves' which we published online this month. The paper looks at stomata geometry, combining biomimetic experiments and theory, to understand the link between environmental factors, such as light, water and carbon dioxide availability, and plant productivity relative to stomatal design.

Professor Kaare Jensen who headed the research explains more:

"To get carbon dioxide for photosynthesis plants open their stomata, and because air contains relatively little amounts of carbon (0.04%) this suggests that plants need many pores, perhaps covering its entire surface, to get enough carbon dioxide in.

However, a big problem is that water also evaporates out through these pores. In fact, more than one hundred water molecules are lost to the atmosphere for every carbon collected. This is the reason why water is the single most important factor limiting agricultural yields.

It has been known for a long time that the number and size of stomata pores vary between species, and because of this trade-off, the effect has been attributed to various environmental factors.

Our experiments on synthetic leaves reveal a crucial missing component in our understanding: stomatal pore spacing is tuned to be just on the edge of interaction with neighboring pores. Sitting at this inflection point maximizes control over photosynthesis, but does not generally minimize water loss, and this has remained unchanged for more than 325 million years, despite large fluctuations in carbon dioxide concentrations."

Explore further: Plant growth enhanced through promotion of pore opening

More information: Maciej A. Zwieniecki et al. Stomatal design principles in synthetic and real leaves, Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2016). DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2016.0535

Related Stories

Plant growth enhanced through promotion of pore opening

March 27, 2014

By determining the key factor in regulating photosynthesis and plant growth, Professor Toshinori Kinoshita, Dr. Yin Wang and co-workers at Nagoya University's Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (WPI-ITbM) have succeeded ...

Adjustable valves gave ancient plants the edge

June 9, 2011

Controlling water loss is an important ability for modern land plants as it helps them thrive in changing environments. New research from the University of Bristol, published today in the journal Current Biology, shows that ...

Feeding the world by rewiring plant 'mouths'

July 4, 2016

Plants have tiny pores on their leaves called stomata—Greek for mouths—through which they take in carbon dioxide from the air and from which water evaporates. New work from the lab of Dominique Bergmann, honorary adjunct ...

Recommended for you

Targeting 'hidden pocket' for treatment of stroke and seizure

January 19, 2019

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists ...

Artificially produced cells communicate with each other

January 18, 2019

Friedrich Simmel and Aurore Dupin, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), have for the first time created artificial cell assemblies that can communicate with each other. The cells, separated by fatty membranes, ...

Using bacteria to create a water filter that kills bacteria

January 18, 2019

More than one in 10 people in the world lack basic drinking water access, and by 2025, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas, which is why access to clean water is one of the National Academy ...

Hand-knitted molecules

January 18, 2019

Molecules are usually formed in reaction vessels or laboratory flasks. An Empa research team has now succeeded in producing molecules between two microscopically small, movable gold tips – in a sense as a "hand-knitted" ...

This computer program makes pharma patents airtight

January 17, 2019

Routes to making life-saving medications and other pharmaceutical compounds are among the most carefully protected trade secrets in global industry. Building on recent work programming computers to identify synthetic pathways ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.