Carol Brewer Ph.D. - Lab Website
Plant Functional Morphology and Ecology Education
No Child Left Indoors

Research interests in Plant Biology


Research Interests:

My research program in physiological ecology has two main foci: 1) functional plant morphology – particularly at the leaf level, and 2) conservation biology of temperate forests in southern South America. Our work on the functional morphology of leaves (more than 150 species of montane/ subalpine plants from North, Central, and South America) has identified of variety of leaf- level adaptations related to the extent and duration of leaf surface wetness (e.g., location of stomatal pores, trichome density and arrangement). This work has provides a foundation for interpreting the role of surface water on the function of stomata, the uptake of CO2, air pollution deposition, pathogen infection, and seasonal biomass production. In Patagonian Argentina and Chile, we have on-going studies on the structure and function of Nothofagus pumilio and Austrocedrus chilensus forests. Current research focuses on physiological ecology, regeneration after disturbance, and the influence of nonnative species (particularly conifers).


Topic of Project

Lead Researcher


Dieocy of Austrocedrus chilensis

C. Nuñez

The separation of sexes in plants is associated with specialization of the sexes in response to differential resource demands related with sexual reproduction.  Females often have higher reproductive effort and, in some species, sexual dimorphism in physiology and/or morphology can be compensating factors. Austrocedrus chilensis, a dioecious conifer tree species (Cupressaceae) native to the Austral Temperate Forest, grows along one of the steepest rainfall gradients in the world between the Andes and the Patagonian steppe. We looked at leaf level physiology in male and female Austrocedrus trees in and near Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina.

Ecology of Leaf Surface Wetness

C. Brewer

The high frequency and natural variability of wetting events in these and a great variety of other habitats, coupled with the large range in surface wettability among plant species, and the potentially strong effects on photosynthesis, growth, and pathogen infections, suggests an important evolutionary avenue related to the dynamics of water on leaf surfaces. The objective of this area of study is to investigate patterns of surface features of leaves related to susceptibility to wetness for plants along a strong precipitation gradients. Recently we have worked in Patagonian Argentina and in Costa Rica.

Photosynthesis in Green Cones Offsets Reproductive Costs

C. Nuñez

In most organisms, the allocation of resources to one function (e.g. reproduction) normally hinders other (e.g. growth).  In dioecious plant species where female plants have higher reproductive effort, males often have greater growth or survival.  In the dioecious conifer Austrocedrus chilensis (Cupressaceae), females invest up to 25 times more biomass in reproduction than males (Rovere 2000). However, there is no evidence of decreased female vegetative growth, lower rates of survival, or other sex-related differences (Rovere 2000; Nuñez 2005) as would be expected.  In this work, we are learning that green developing cones on female trees are photosynthetically active and can compensate their own Carbon costs.