Inferring climate from angiosperm leaf venation networks

Leaf venation networks provide an integrative linkage between plant form, function and climate niche, because leaf water transport underlies variation in plant performance.  Here, we develop theory based on leaf physiology that uses community-mean vein density to predict growing season temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration. The key assumption is that leaf water supply is matched to water demand in the local environment. We test model predictions using leaves from 17 temperate and tropical sites that span broad climatic gradients.  We find quantitative agreement between predicted and observed climate values. We also highlight additional leaf traits that may improve predictions.  Our study provides a novel approach for understanding the functional linkages between functional traits and climate that may improve the reconstruction of paleoclimate from fossil assemblages.