Photosynthesis Research

, 87:287 | Cite as

A photoacoustic method for rapid assessment of temperature effects on photosynthesis

  • Stephen K. Herbert
  • Karl Y. Biel
  • Thomas C Vogelmann
Regular paper


The photosynthetic and photoacoustic properties of leaf samples were studied using a photoacoustic system modified for precise temperature control. Data were collected over a temperature range of −10 °C to +60 °C. A distinct acoustic noise transient marked the freezing temperature of the samples. A positive absorption transient and a brief period of oxygen uptake marked the thermal denaturing temperature of the samples. Between these extremes, the effects of temperature on light absorption, oxygen evolution, and photochemical energy storage were quantified quickly and easily. Oxygen evolution could be measured as low as −5 °C and showed a broad temperature peak that was 10 °C lower under limiting light intensity than under saturating light intensity. Photochemical energy storage showed a narrower temperature peak that was only slightly lower for limiting light intensities than for saturating light intensities. In a survey of diverse plants, temperature response curves for oxygen evolution were determined readily for a variety of leaf types, including ferns and conifer needles. These results demonstrate that temperature-controlled photoacoustics can be useful for rapid assessment of temperature effects on photosynthesis and other leaf properties.

Key words:

leaf freezing point oxygen evolution photoacoustics photosynthesis Photosystem II temperature stress 





the photoacoustic thermal signal from a photosynthetic sample in the presence of strong background light


the photoacoustic thermal signal from a photosynthetic sample in the absence of strong background light


Photosystem I


Photosystem II


the rate of a reaction at one temperature divided by its rate at a temperature 10 °C cooler



Financial support for this work was from an NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant, DBI-9724499, to T.C. Vogelmann, J.N. Nishio, and S.K. Herbert. We dedicate this paper to Professor F.F. Blackman on the 100th anniversary of his paper titled `Optima and Limiting Factors' in which he presents an insightful discussion of the relationships between temperature and photosynthesis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen K. Herbert
    • 1
  • Karl Y. Biel
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Thomas C Vogelmann
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.Russian Academy of ScienceInstitute of Basic Biological ProblemsPuschino Moscow RegionRussia
  3. 3.Biosphere Systems InternationalTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Center for Food and DevelopmentHermosilloMéxico
  5. 5.Department of Botany and Agricultural ChemistryUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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