Quantifying the impact of natural and anthropogenic disturbances such as deforestation, forest fires and vegetation thinning among others on net ecosystem—atmosphere exchanges of carbon dioxide, water vapor and heat—is an important aspect in the context of modeling global carbon, water and energy cycles. The absence of canopy architectural variation in horizontal and vertical directions is a major source of uncertainty in current climate models attempting to address these issues. This manuscript demonstrates the importance of considering the vertical distribution of foliage density by coupling a leaf level plant biophysics model with analytical solutions of wind flow and light attenuation in a horizontally homogeneous canopy. It is demonstrated that plant physiological response in terms of carbon assimilation, transpiration and canopy surface temperature can be widely different for two canopies with the same leaf area index (LAI) but different leaf area density distributions, under several conditions of wind speed, light availability, soil moisture availability and atmospheric evaporative demand.
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