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Laura Varone is currently Associate Professor in Environmental Botany (SSD BIO/03) at the Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome. In 2002 she had a Biology Degree (Bio-Ecological Curriculum) at Sapienza University of Rome, defending a thesis entitled “Structure and function relationship of Mediterranean evergreen maquis species: an approach to the functional group definition”. In 2007 she received a PhD in Ecological Sciences from the University of Rome "La Sapienza" defending a thesis entitled “Adaptive strategies of Mediterranean evergreen shrubs species”. During her PhD, she was PhD student visitor at the University of the Balearic Islands (Spain) working with Prof. Jaume Flexas on the effect of water stress on stomatal and non-stomatal limitations to photosynthesis in Mediterranean plant species. From 2007 to 2011, she had several research fellowships at the Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome, in the fields of forest vegetation biomonitoring, plant phenology, ex situ and in situ conservation strategies, ecophysiology of plant species at extinction risk and adaptive strategies to of dune species. From 2011 to 2019 she had a permanent Researcher position in Environmental Botany (SSD BIO/03) at the Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome. In 2016 she was visiting professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso (Brazil) teaching the course “Methods of biomonitoring of air pollution as from plants. She is member of the board of the PhD Graduate School in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Sapienza University of Rome.

She is member of the Commission for Research at Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome, member of the Quality Assurance (QA) management group for the Single Cycle Degree in Primary Teacher Education, Sapienza University of Rome.

In November 2020 she has been awarded the Italian Scientific Qualification (Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale), in accordance with article No 6 Law 240/2010) as Full Professor in the sector 05/A1 (Botany, valid until 12/11/2029).


Laura Varone currently teaches for the following courses at Sapienza University of Rome:

  • Plant Ecology for the Bachelor’s Degree in Biology
  • Plant Biology for the Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Teacher Education
  • Environmental Botany for the Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape and Environmental Planning and Design (Inter-University Course, Sapienza University of Rome – Tuscia University)
  • Plant Ecology” for the Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape and Environmental Planning and Design (Inter-University Course, Sapienza University of Rome – Tuscia University)

area di ricerca:

The expertise area of Laura Varone regards plant ecophysiology studies focusing on plant functional responses to climatic factor variations by using a trait-based approach. Specifically,

Ecophysiology of the Mediterranean plant species: this research activity deals with using plant functional traits as proxy of Mediterranean plant response to variations of the climatic factors. The focus is on morphological plant traits related to functional processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, seed germination, growth and water use. The objective is to analyse the different strategies that allow plants to cope with more and more intense stress factors, particularly drought and temperature stresses.

Keywords: Chlorophyll fluorescence (direct and modulated fluorescence); gas exchange (net photosynthesis; stomatal conductance; leaf transpiration; leaf respiration); leaf anatomy; leaf morphology (morphological leaf indexes such as LMA, SLA, LDMC) leaf water status (leaf water potential, relative water content); plant functional trait covariation; photosynthetic pigment content; relationship between net photosynthesis and air temperature.

Phenotypic plasticity: this research activity deals with analyzing different phenotypic expression of the functional traits at a population level in relationship to environmental characteristics. The objective is to quantify the species phenotypic plasticity extent and therefore to analyze the species capacity to adapt to new environmental conditions caused by climate change.

Keywords: Acclimation; adaptation; ecotypes; growth analysis; interspecific and intraspecific variation; local adaptation; leaf phenology; plant functional trait covariation; plasticity indexes.

Structural forest analysis: this research activity deals with analyzing structural traits in forest ecosystems to monitor their functional state in relationship with different development stages, resource availability and with abiotic stress. As structural traits affect the main ecosystem processes such as biomass accumulation, rain interception, evapotranspiration, photosynthesis, respiration, and soil organic matter input, the objective is to make quantitative analysis of many physical and biological processes related to vegetation dynamics in order to establish the tolerance threshold of the ecosystem forest to perturbations and then provide useful information for sustainable management particularly in Natural Protected Areas.

Keywords: Carbon sequestration and storage; crown volume; leaf area density (LAD): leaf area index (LAI); plant biomass and productivity; plant density; plant height; plant total basal area; reforestation.


2021: Principal Investigator for the project “Functional diversity and resilience capacity of the Mediterranean shrublands in response to disturbance” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2021).

2020: Researcher unit’s Member for the project “'Magnetopriming for sustainable agriculture” (Financing: Lazio Region '' Research Groups 2020'' program).

2020: Principal Investigator for the project “Intraspecific variability of the biomass allocation patterns under stress conditions: implications for Mediterranean plant adaptative strategies” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2020).

2019: Work package Coordinator for the project “Multiscale analysis of remotely sensed plant phenology” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2019).

2018: Co-proponent for the projeject “SapienzaTerahertz: THz spectroscopic image system for basic and applied sciences” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Large Scientific Equipment 2018)

2018: Principal Investigator for the project “The effect of water and nutrient limitations on biomass allocation patterns in crops and their wild relatives” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2018).

2015: Work package Coordinator for the project “BioDiverCity: the influence of drivers and alien species on the biodiversity of urban environments” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2015).

2014: Work package Coordinator for the project “Forest fires under climate and land use changes: learning from the past to inform the future” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2014)

2013: Principal Investigator for the project “Carbon sequestration capability of the Mediterranean costal habitats: past, present and future perspectives” (Financing: Sapienza University of Rome, Scientific Research 2013).

2003 – 2017: Attendance 16 research projects as researcher unit’s member.


She is member of the Editorial Board of

- Trees – Structure and Function

- Photosynthetica

- Plants - MDPI, Plant Ecology Section


Author Orcid ID:

Scopus Author ID: 55901765300

  1. Pepe, M., Crescente, M.F., Varone, L. 2022. Effect of water stress on physiological and morphological leaf traits: a Comparison among the three widely-spread invasive alien species Ailanthus altissima, Phytolacca americana, and Robinia pseudoacacia. Plants 11, 899. DOI: 10.3390/ plants11070899.
  2. Pepe M., Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Puglielli G., Varone L. 2022. Daily temperature effect on seedling growth dynamic of three invasive alien species. Frontiers in Plant Science 13:837449. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2022.837449.   
  3. Abeli, T. et al., 2021*. IDPlanT: The Italian Database of Plant Translocation. Plant Biosystems (in press). DOI:  10.1080/11263504.2021.1985004. * Publication with more than 10 authors, which includes Varone L.
  4. Pepe M., Gratani L., Fabrini G., Varone L., 2020. Seed germination traits of Ailanthus altissima, Phytolacca americana and Robinia pseudoacacia in response to different thermal and light requirements. Plant Species Biology 35: 300 – 314. DOI: 10.1111/1442-1984.12286.
  5. Petrucelli V., Brasili E., Varone L., Valletta A., Pasqua G., 2020. Antifungal activity of dimethyl sulfoxide against Botrytis cinerea and phytotoxicity on tomato and lettuce plants. Plant Biosystems 154: 465 – 462. DOI: 10.1080/11263504.2020.1779846.
  6. Kattge, J., et al., 2020* TRY plant trait database–enhanced coverage and open access. Global Change Biology 26:119–188. DOI 10.1111/gcb.14904. *Publication with more than 10 authors, which includes Varone L.
  7. Puglielli G., Gratani L., Varone L. 2019. Leaf rolling as indicator of water stress in Cistus incanus from different provenances. Photosynthetica 57: 202-208, DOI: 10.32615/ps.2019.014.
  8. Puglielli G., Varone L., Gratani L. 2019. Diachronic adjustments of functional traits scaling relationships to track environmental changes: revisiting Cistus species leaf cohort classification. Flora 254: 173-180. DOI: 10.1016/j.flora.2018.08.010.
  9. Puglielli G., Varone L. 2018. Inherent variation of functional traits in winter and summer leaves of Mediterranean seasonal dimorphic species: evidence of a ´within leaf cohort` spectrum. AoB Plants 10: ply027,  
  10. Gratani L., Varone L., Crescente M.F., Catoni R., Ricotta C., Puglielli G. 2018. Leaf thickness and density drive the responsiveness of photosynthesis to air temperature in Mediterranean species according to their leaf habitus. Journal of Arid Environments 150: 9-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.12.007.
  11. Puglielli G., Catoni R. Spoletini A. Varone L., Gratani L. 2017. Short-term physiological plasticity: trade-off between drought and recovery responses in three Mediterranean Cistus species. Ecology and Evolution 7: 10880–10889. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3484.
  12. Bonito A., Ricotta C., Iberite M., Gratani L., Varone L. 2017. CO2 sequestration in two Mediterranean dune areas subjected to a different level of anthropogenic disturbance. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 196: 22–30. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2017.06.040.
  13. Puglielli G., Cuevas Román F.J., Catoni R., Moreno Rojas J.M., Gratani L., Varone L. 2017. Provenance effect on carbon assimilation, photochemistry and leaf morphology in Mediterranean Cistus species under chilling stress. Plant Biology 19: 660–670. DOI: 10.1111/plb.12574.
  14. Varone L., Catoni R., Bonito A., Gini E., Gratani L. 2017. Photochemical performance of Carpobrotus edulis in response to various substrate salt concentrations. South African Journal of Botany 111: 258–266. DOI:10.1016/j.sajb.2017.03.035.
  15. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Varone L., Puglielli G., Catoni R., Bonito A. 2017. Carbon storage by Mediterranean vegetation developing inside a protected area. Rendiconti Lincei – Scienze Fisiche e Naturali 28: 425-433. DOI: 10.1007/s12210-017-0612-4.
  16. Vasheka O., Puglielli G., Crescente M.F., Varone L., Gratani L. 2017. “Anatomical and Morphological Leaf Traits of Three Evergreen Ferns (Polystichum setiferum, Polypodium interjectum and Asplenium scolopendrium). American Fern Journal 106: 258-268. DOI: 10.1640/0002-8444-106.4.258.
  17. Puglielli G., Varone L., Gratani L., Catoni R. 2017 “Specific leaf area variations drive acclimation of Cistus salvifolius in different light environments. Photosynthetica 55: 31-40DOI: 10.1007/s11099-016-0235-5.
  18. Gratani L., Varone L., Bonito A. 2016. “Carbon sequestration of four urban parks in Rome”. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 19: 184-193. DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2016.07.007.
  19. Gratani L., Catoni R., Varone L.* 2016 “Evergreen species response to Mediterranean climate stress factors”. iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry 9: 946-953. DOI: 10.3832/ifor1848-009.
  20. Varone L.*, Vitale M., Catoni R., Gratani L. 2016 “Physiological differences of five Holm oak (Quercus ilex L.) ecotypes growing under common growth conditions were related to native local climate”. Plant Species Biology 31: 196-210. DOI: 10.1111/1442-1984.12103.
  21. Catoni R., Gratani L., Sartori F., Varone L., Granata M.U. 2015 “Carbon gain optimization in five broadleaf deciduous trees in response to light variation within the crown: relationships among morphological, anatomical and physiological leaf traits”. Acta Botanica Croatica 74:71-94. DOI: 10.1515/botcro-2015-0010.
  22. Catoni R., Granata M.U., Sartori F., Varone L., Gratani L. 2015. Corylus avellana responsiveness to light variations: morphological, anatomical and physiological leaf trait plasticity”. Photosynthetica 53: 35-46. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-015-0078-5.
  23. Varone L.*, Gratani L. 2015 “Leaf respiration responsiveness to induced water stress in Mediterranean species”. Environmental and Experimental Botany 109: 141-150. DOI: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2014.07.018.
  24. Gratani L., Bonito A., Crescente M.F., Catoni R., Varone L., Tinelli A. 2015. “The use of maps as a monitoring tool of protected areas management". Rendiconti Lincei – Scienze Fisiche e Naturali 26: S325 – S335. DOI: 10.1007/s12210-014-0355-4.
  25. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Varone L., Bonito A., Tinelli A. 2015Pinus pinea L. plant trait variations in response to tree age and silvicultural management and carbon storage capability”. Rendiconti Lincei – Scienze Fisiche e Naturali: 26: S507-S515. DOI: 10.1007/s12210-014-0343-8.
  26. Gratani L., Varone L*. 2014 “Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration variations in Rome: relationship with traffic level and urban parks size”. Urban Ecosystems, 17: 501-511. DOI: 10.1007/s11252-013-0340-1.
  27. Gratani L., Varone L.* 2013 “Carbon sequestration and noise attenuation provided by hedges in Rome: the contribution of hedge traits in decreasing pollution levels”. Atmospheric Pollution Research 4, 315-322. DOI: 10.5094/APR.2013.035.
  28. Gratani L., Catoni R., Varone L.* 2013. “Morphological, anatomical and physiological leaf traits of Q. ilex, P. latifolia, P. lentiscus, and M. communis and their response to Mediterranean climate stress factors”. Botanical Studies 54:35. DOI:10.1186/1999-3110-54-35.
  29. Catoni R., Varone L., Gratani L. 2013. “Variations in leaf respiration across different seasons for Mediterranean evergreen species”. Photosynthetica 51: 295-304. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-013-0026-1.
  30. Gratani L., Varone L., Ricotta C., Catoni R. 2013. Mediterranean shrublands carbon sequestration: environmental and economic benefits. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 18: 1167-1182. DOI: 10.1007/s11027-012-9415-1.
  31. Catoni R., Gratani L., Varone L. 2012 “Physiological, morphological and anatomical trait variations between winter and summer leaves of Cistus species”. Flora 207: 442-449. DOI: 10.1016/j.flora.2012.02.007.
  32. Gratani L., Catoni R., Pirone G., Frattaroli A., Varone L.* 2012 “Physiological and morphological leaf traits variations in two Apennine plant species in response to different altitude”. Photosynthetica 50: 15-23. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-012-0006-x.
  33. Varone L.*, Ribas-Carbo, M., Cardona C., Gallé A., Medrano H., Gratani L., Flexas J. 2012 “Stomatal and non-stomatal limitations to photosynthesis in seedlings and saplings of Mediterranean species pre-conditioned and aged in nurseries: Different response to water stress. Environmental and Experimental Botany 75: 235-247. DOI: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2011.07.007.
  34. Bonito A., Varone L., Gratani L., 2011 “Relationship between acorn size and seedling morphological and physiological traits of Quercus ilex L. from different climates”. Photosynthetica 49: 75-86. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-011-0014-2.
  35. Gratani L., Catoni R., Varone L.*, 2011. “Photosynthetic and leaf respiration activity of Malcolmia littorea (L.) R. Br in response to air temperature”. Photosynthetica 49: 65-74. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-011-0007-1.
  36. Gratani L., Catoni R., Varone L.* 2011. “Quercus ilex L. carbon sequestration capability related to shrub size”. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 178: 383-392. DOI: 10.1007/s10661-010-1697-8.
  37. Gratani L., Varone L., Crescente M.F. 2009. “Photosynthetic activity and water use efficiency of dune species: the influence of air temperature on functioning”. Photosynthetica 47: 575-585. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-009-0083-7.
  38. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Fabrini G., Bonito A., Varone L.* 2009. “Growth analysis of reestablished population versus natural population of Bidens cernua L.”. Plant Biosystems 143: 63-68. DOI: 10.1080/11263500903192175.
  39. Varone L.*, Gratani L. 2009. “Leaf expansion in Rhamnus alaternus L. by leaf morphological, anatomical and physiological analysis”. Trees Structure and Function 23: 1255-1262. DOI: 10.1007/s00468-009-0365-5.
  40. Gratani L., Varone L., Catoni R. 2008. “Relationship between net photosynthesis and leaf respiration in Mediterranean evergreen species”. Photosynthetica 46: 567-573. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-008-0095-8.
  41. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Varone L 2008. “Long term monitoring of metal pollution by urban trees”. Atmospheric Environment 42: 8273-8277. DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.07.032.
  42. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Fabrini G., Varone L. 2008 “Growth pattern of Bidens cernua L.: relationships between relative growth rate and its physiological and morphological components”. Photosynthetica 46: 179-184. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-008-0029-5.
  43. Gratani L., Crescente M.F., Varone L., Fabrini G., Digiulio E. 2008. “Growth pattern and photosynthetic activity of different Bamboo species growing in the Botanical Garden of Rome”. Flora 203: 77-84. DOI: 10.1016/j.flora.2007.11.002.
  44. Gratani L., Varone L., Bonito A. 2007 “Environmental induced variations in leaf dark respiration and net photosynthesis of Quercus ilex L.”. Photosynthetica 45: 633-636. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-007-0109-y.
  45. Varone L., Gratani L. 2007 “Physiological response of eight Mediterranean maquis species to low air temperatures during winter”. Photosynthetica 45: 385-391. DOI: 10.1007/s11099-007-0065-6.
  46. Gratani L., Varone L. *2007 “Plant crown traits and carbon sequestration capability by Platanus hybrida Brot. In Rome”. Landscape and Urban Planning 81: 282-286. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.01.006
  47. Gratani L., Varone L. *2006 “Long – time variations in leaf mass area of Mediterranean evergreen broad - leaf and narrow - leaf maquis species”. Photosynthetica, 44: 161-168. DOI 10.1007/s11099-006-0001-1.
  48. Gratani L., Varone L. * 2005 “Daily and seasonal variation of CO2 in the city of Rome in relationship with the traffic volume”. Atmospheric Environment, 39: 2619-2624. DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2005.01.013.
  49. Gratani L., Varone L.* 2004 “Adaptive photosynthetic strategies of the Mediterranean maquis species according to their origin.” Photosynthetica, 42: 551-558. DOI: 10.1007/S11099-005-0012-3.
  50. Gratani L., Varone L. * 2004 “Leaf key traits of Erica arborea L., Erica multiflora L. and Rosmarinus officinalis L. co-occurring in the Mediterranean maquis”. Flora, 199: 58-69. DOI: 10.1078/0367-2530-00130.


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