The physiological basis for estimating photosynthesis from Chla fluorescence

Jimei Han, Christine Y.Y. Chang, Lianhong Gu, Yongjiang Zhang, Eliot W. Meeker, Troy S. Magney, Anthony P. Walker, Jiaming Wen, Oz Kira, Sarah McNaull, Ying Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Solar-induced Chl fluorescence (SIF) offers the potential to curb large uncertainties in the estimation of photosynthesis across biomes and climates, and at different spatiotemporal scales. However, it remains unclear how SIF should be used to mechanistically estimate photosynthesis. In this study, we built a quantitative framework for the estimation of photosynthesis, based on a mechanistic light reaction model with the Chla fluorescence of Photosystem II (SIFPSII) as an input (MLR-SIF). Utilizing 29 C3 and C4 plant species that are representative of major plant biomes across the globe, we confirmed the validity of this framework at the leaf level. The MLR-SIF model is capable of accurately reproducing photosynthesis for all C3 and C4 species under diverse light, temperature, and CO2 conditions. We further tested the robustness of the MLR-SIF model using Monte Carlo simulations, and found that photosynthesis estimates were much less sensitive to parameter uncertainties relative to the conventional Farquhar, von Caemmerer, Berry (FvCB) model because of the additional independent information contained in SIFPSII. Once inferred from direct observables of SIF, SIFPSII provides ‘parameter savings’ to the MLR-SIF model, compared to the mechanistically equivalent FvCB model, and thus avoids the uncertainties arising as a result of imperfect model parameterization. Our findings set the stage for future efforts to employ SIF mechanistically to improve photosynthesis estimates across a variety of scales, functional groups, and environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1206-1219
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 May 2022


  • nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ)
  • parameter uncertainty
  • photosynthesis model
  • redox state of PSII reaction centers
  • solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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