Tag Archives: lawren sack

The secret math of plants: UCLA biologists uncover rules that govern leaf design

Life scientists from UCLA’s College of Letters and Science have discovered fundamental rules of leaf design that underlie plants’ ability to produce leaves that vary enormously in size. In their mathematical design, leaves are the “perfect machines,” said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the research.

The UCLA team discovered the mathematical relationships using “allometric analysis,” which looks at how the proportions of parts of an organism change with differences in total size. This approach has been used by scientists since Galileo but had never before been applied to the interior of leaves. (more…)

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UCLA Research Makes Possible Rapid Assessment of Plant Drought Tolerance

UCLA life scientists, working with colleagues in China, have discovered a new method to quickly assess plants’ drought tolerance. The method works for many diverse species growing around the world. The research, published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, may revolutionize the ability to survey plant species for their ability to withstand drought, said senior author Lawren Sack, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“This method can be applied rapidly and reliably for diverse species across ecosystems worldwide,” he said of the federally funded research by the National Science Foundation. (more…)

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Hacking Code of Leaf Vein Architecture Solves Mysteries, Allows Predictions of Past Climate

UCLA life scientists have discovered new laws that determine the construction of leaf vein systems as leaves grow and evolve. These easy-to-apply mathematical rules can now be used to better predict the climates of the past using the fossil record.

The research, published May 15 in the journal Nature Communications, has a range of fundamental implications for global ecology and allows researchers to estimate original leaf sizes from just a fragment of a leaf. This will improve scientists’ prediction and interpretation of climate in the deep past from leaf fossils.

Leaf veins are of tremendous importance in a plant’s life, providing the nutrients and water that leaves need to conduct photosynthesis and supporting them in capturing sunlight. Leaf size is also of great importance for plants’ adaptation to their environment, with smaller leaves being found in drier, sunnier places. (more…)

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Which Plants Will Survive Droughts, Climate Change?

New research by UCLA life scientists could lead to predictions of which plant species will escape extinction from climate change.

Droughts are worsening around the world, posing a great challenge to plants in all ecosystems, said Lawren Sack, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the research. Scientists have debated for more than a century how to predict which species are most vulnerable.

Sack and two members of his laboratory have made a fundamental discovery that resolves this debate and allows for the prediction of how diverse plant species and vegetation types worldwide will tolerate drought, which is critical given the threats posed by climate change, he said. (more…)

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Being Small Has Its Advantages, If You Are a Leaf

The size of leaves can vary by a factor of 1,000 across plant species, but until now, the reason why has remained a mystery. A new study by an international team of scientists led by UCLA life scientists goes a long way toward solving it.

In research federally funded by the National Science Foundation, the biologists found that smaller leaves are structurally and physiologically better adapted to dry soil because of their distinct vein systems. (more…)

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