Since 2013 I have headed a Research Group at the University of Helsinki studying the interaction of plant canopies with sunlight. This diverse international group has broad multidisciplinary knowledge in plant biology, ecology and forest research, and currently includes four funded PhD students and one post doc.
Plants use sunlight for photosynthesis and as a cue to regulate physiological processes and phenology. Forest canopies create complex heterogeneous environments supporting multiple species that change according the sunlight they receive. Whereas crop canopies are highly dynamic, with leaves moving rapidly in the wind allowing small flecks of light to penetrate deep in their canopies. My research aims to integrate knowledge on how canopies are formed by the sunlight they receive with information on the optical properties of leaves of their contingent species, to better understand their ecophysiology and the ecological processes that they support.
This research in currently supported by grants from the Academy of Finland to calculate the potential effects of diffuse sunlight (as found under heavy aerosol loading or cloudy skies) vs clear-sky sunshine on canopy-level light use efficiency and net carbon assimilation. Such research strengthens our capacity to take action against climate change by informing policy decisions affecting climate change mitigation.
In addition to this research, I serve as a Panel Member on the UNEP Environmental Effects Assessment Panel, that reports to the Parties of the Montreal Protocol on the consequences of stratospheric ozone depletion, solar UV-B radiation and climate change. I am one of four panel members who meet annual to specifically assess effects on global terrestrial ecosystems.