Temperature fluctuates rapidly and affects all developmental and metabolic processes. This often obscures the effects of developmental trends or of other environmental conditions when temperature fluctuates naturally. A method is proposed for modelling temperature-compensated rates, based on the coordination of temperature responses of developmental processes. In a data set comprising 41 experiments in the greenhouse, growth chamber, or the field, the temperature responses in the range of 6–36 °C for different processes were compared in three species, maize, rice, and Arabidopsis thaliana. Germination, cell division, expansive growth rate, leaf initiation, and phenology showed coordinated temperature responses and followed common laws within each species. The activities of 10 enzymes involved in carbon metabolism exhibited monotonous exponential responses across the whole range 10–40 °C. Hence, the temperature dependence of developmental processes is not explained by a simple relationship to central metabolism. Temperature-compensated rates of development were calculated from the equations of response curve, by expressing rates per unit equivalent time at 20 °C. This resulted in stable rates when temperatures fluctuated over a large range (for which classical thermal time was inefficient), and in time courses of leaf development which were common to several experiments with different temperature scenarios.
Journal of Experimental Botany (2010) 61 (8) 2057-2069 [doi: 10.1093/jxb/erq003]