Seasonal responses of leaf gas exchange to elevated carbon dioxide in Populus grandidentata

TitleSeasonal responses of leaf gas exchange to elevated carbon dioxide in Populus grandidentata
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsCurtis PS, Teeri JA
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations may have important consequences for forest ecosystems. We studied above- and below-ground growth and leaf gas exchange responses of Populus grandidentata Michx. to elevated CO2 under natural forest conditions over the course of a growing season. Recently emerged P. grandidentata seedlings were grown in native, nutrient-poor soils at ambient and twice ambient (707 ubar (1 bar = 100 kPa)) CO2 partial pressure for 70 days in open-top chambers in northern lower Michigan. Total leaf area and shoot and root dry weight all increased in high CO2 grown plants. Photosynthetic light and CO2 response characteristics were measured 28, 45, and 68 days after exposure to elevated CO2. In ambient grown plants, light saturated assimilation rates increased from day 28 to day 45 and then declined at day 68 (15 September). This late-season decline, typical of senescing Populus leaves, was due both to a decrease in the initial slope of the net CO2 assimilation versus intercellular CO2 partial pressure relationship and to decreased CO2 saturated assimilation rates. Specific leaf nitrogen (mg N (cm2 leaf area)-1) did not change during this period, although leaf carbon content and leaf weight (mg cm-2) both increased. In ambient grown plants stomatal conductance also declined at day 68. In contrast, plants grown at elevated CO2 showed no late-season decline in photosynthetic capacity or changes in leaf weight, suggesting a delay in senescence with long-term exposure to high CO2. High CO2 grown plants also maintained photosynthetic sensitivity to increasing Ci throughout the exposure period, while ambient CO2 grown plants were insensitive to Ci above 400 ubar on day 68. These results indicate the potential for direct CO2 fertilization of P. grandidentata in the field and provide evidence for a new mechanism by which elevated atmospheric CO2 could influence seasonal carbon gain.