The Santa Monica Mountains are home to countless vegetation and plant species, many of which have been forced to adapt to southern California’s stressful environment. With recent droughts and a steady change in climate, an increase in leaf temperature within some species in the Santa Monica Mountains has been observed. One prominent plant found within the mountain range is the malosma laurina, or laurel sumac, the only species of the malosma genus. Malosma laurina is a perfect example of a specie adapting to its stressful environment. Constant brush and shrub fires within the chaparral area where it commonly grows have enabled it to grow new leaves year round, even during the summer dry season. Initially, we planned on measuring the malosma laurina leaf temperatures and comparing them to temperatures in past years, believing we could find correlation between global climate change and an increase in leaf temperatures over the years. While measuring leaf temperatures, however, we noticed something curious. Different leaves of different canopies within the m. laurina plants reported different temperatures; it seemed the temperature of a leaf could be determined based on its distance from the soil. Interested in this discovery, we decided to experiment on whether the leaves on the malosma laurina varied in temperature based on which canopy they grew in, and perhaps why the temperatures were the way they were. Using a radiometer to test light levels and an infrared thermometer to measure individual leaf temperatures, we discovered that higher canopy leaves had consistently higher temperatures than lower canopy leaves, which contested our initial prediction that lower canopy leaves would have cooler temperatures.
O'Hea, Brooks and Morgan, Kevin, "Relating Leaf Temperature on Malosma Laurina to Leaf Proximity From Soil" (2014). Pepperdine University, Featured Research. Paper 121.