Photosynthesis is the most important chemical reaction on Earth because the conversion of light into chemical energy is necessary for plant growth and reproduction and the primary energy source for herbivores and consumers. The importance of photosynthesis for plant growth suggests that it should be under positive directional selection, yet photosynthetic capacity varies by more than an order of magnitude in seed plants. The evolution of high photosynthesis may not occur in all plant species because of a high water cost; stomates must remain open to allow CO2 to diffuse into the leaf, which results in substantial evaporative water loss. Our lab explores whether and how this trade-off shapes the evolution of photosynthesis, particularly in water-limited environments, where the fitness costs of evaporative water losses are high. This work is done in collaboration with Dr. Christina Caruso.
Related publications (*Undergraduate, †Graduate or #Postdoctoral advisee) :
#Vogan P.J., Maherali H. 2014. Increased photosynthetic capacity as a mechanism of drought adaptation in C3 plants. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 175:1033-1041.
Donovan L.A., Maherali H., Caruso C.M., Huber H., de Kroon, H. 2011. The evolution of the worldwide leaf economics spectrum. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 26:88-95.
Maherali H., Caruso C.M., †Sherrard M.E., Latta R.G. 2010. Adaptive value and costs of physiological plasticity to soil moisture limitation in recombinant inbred lines of Avena barbata. American Naturalist, 175:211-224.
Maherali H., †Sherrard M.E., *Clifford M.H., Latta R.G. 2008. Leaf hydraulic conductivity and photosynthesis are genetically correlated in an annual grass. New Phytologist, 180:240-247.
†Sherrard M.E., Maherali H. 2006. The adaptive significance of drought escape in Avena barbata, an annual grass. Evolution, 60:2478-2489.
Caruso C.M., Maherali H., †Sherrard M.E. 2006. Plasticity of physiology in Lobelia: testing for adaptation and constraint. Evolution, 60:980-990.