Leaf reflectance spectra capture the evolutionary history of seed plants

Authors: José Eduardo Meireles, Jeannine Cavender‐Bares, Philip A. Townsend, Susan Ustin, John A. Gamon, Anna K. Schweiger, Michael E. Schaepman, Gregory P. Asner, Roberta E. Martin, Aditya Singh, Franziska Schrodt, Adam Chlus, Brian C. O'Meara

In this article, we attempt to close the gap between evolutionary and spectral biology. Our specific goals are to (1) establish which regions of the leaf reflectance spectrum capture the signal of phylogenetic history and how that varies across the tree of life, (2) test whether the phylogenetic identity of lineages can be predicted from spectral data, (3) describe a framework to model the evolution of leaf spectra, and (4) estimate how different evolutionary processes generate the diversity of leaf spectra we observe. To achieve these goals, we compiled an unparalleled dataset of over 16 000 leaf‐level reflectance spectra (400–2400 nm) for 544 seed plant species spanning temperate and tropical latitudes in the Americas and Europe (Fig. 1b–d). We used the Prospect5 leaf radiative transfer model (Féret et al., 2008) to estimate five leaf attributes, number of leaf layers, chlorophyll and carotenoid content, equivalent water thickness, and leaf mass per area (LMA). To explore the evolutionary patterns in leaf spectra, we generated a time‐calibrated molecular phylogeny for the species in our dataset using five chloroplast markers.

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