Dynamic response of plant chlorophyll fluorescence to light, water and nutrient availability

M. Pilar Cendrero-Mateo, A. Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Albert Porcar-Castell, Erik P. Hamerlynck, Shirley A. Papuga, M. Susan Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Chlorophyll molecules absorb photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). The resulting excitation energy is dissipated by three competing pathways at the level of photosystem: (i) photochemistry (and, by extension, photosynthesis); (ii) regulated and constitutive thermal energy dissipation; and (iii) chlorophyll-a fluorescence (ChlF). Because the dynamics of photosynthesis modulate the regulated component of thermal energy dissipation (widely addressed as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ)), the relationship between photosynthesis, NPQ and ChlF changes with water, nutrient and light availability. In this study we characterised the relationship between photosynthesis, NPQ and ChlF when conducting light-response curves of photosynthesis in plants growing under different water, nutrient and ambient light conditions. Our goals were to test whether ChlF and photosynthesis correlate in response to water and nutrient deficiency, and determine the optimum PAR level at which the correlation is maximal. Concurrent gas exchange and ChlF light-response curves were measured for Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz and Triticum durum (L.) Desf plants grown under (i) intermediate light growth chamber conditions, and (ii) high light environment field conditions respectively. Plant stress was induced by withdrawing water in the chamber experiment, and applying different nitrogen levels in the field experiment. Our study demonstrated that ChlF was able to track the variations in photosynthetic capacity in both experiments, and that the light level at which plants were grown was optimum for detecting both water and nutrient deficiency with ChlF. The decrease in photosynthesis was found to modulate ChlF via different mechanisms depending on the treatment: through the action of NPQ in response to water stress, or through the action of changes in leaf chlorophyll concentration in response to nitrogen deficiency. This study provides support for the use of remotely sensed ChlF as a proxy to monitor plant stress dynamics from space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-757
Number of pages12
JournalFunctional Plant Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2015


  • nitrogen
  • non-photochemical quenching
  • photosynthesis
  • water deficit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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