Prof. Tracy Lawson (Professor in Plant Physiology)
My research group focuses on the stomatal control of gas exchange between the leaf and the atmosphere.
Stomata and their function play a central role in determining the amount of carbon gained per unit water lost, known as plant “water use efficiency” and consequently have significant implications for crop yields, as well as global hydrological and carbon cycles.
Stomata must ensure an appropriate balance between CO2 demands for photosynthesis and water loss through transpiration with stomatal conductance often correlated with mesophyll photosynthetic rates. We are investigating the underlying mechanisms and signals that promote this relationship.
Stomata and photosynthesis respond to a number of environmental cues, although stomatal adjustments are generally an order of magnitude slower than mesophyll responses. The resulting disconnection between stomatal conductance and photosynthetic rate means that under natural fluctuating environmental conditions water use efficiency is most likely far from optimal.
We are therefore interested in stomatal control of CO2 assimilation and the relation between mesophyll photosynthesis and stomatal behaviour and the signalling pathways that link these two fundamental processes. We also conduct research investigating the role of guard cell chloroplasts in stomatal function and how guard cell photosynthesis may provide a functional link between mesophyll photosynthesis and guard cell aperture.
We have specific expertise in Infra-red gas exchange analysis and chlorophyll fluorescence technique and thermal imaging. For example we developed the first imaging system for screening plant water use efficiency (McAusland et al., 2013).