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Plant Responses to Elevated CO2

  1. Jinyoung Y Barnaby,
  2. Lewis H Ziska

Published Online: 16 JUL 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023718



How to Cite

Barnaby, J. Y. and Ziska, L. H. 2012. Plant Responses to Elevated CO2. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 JUL 2012


Carbon dioxide (CO2) has two unique properties: physically it absorbs in the infra-red (heat) portion of the spectrum, and plays a role in maintaining global surface temperatures; secondly, it is the source of carbon for plant photosynthesis and growth. Recent, rapid anthropogenic increases in CO2 have been well-characterised with respect to climatic change; less recognised is that increase in CO2 will also impact how plants supply food, energy and carbon to all living things. At present, numerous experiments have documented the response of single leaves or whole plants to elevated CO2; however, it is difficult to scale up or integrate these observations to plant biology in toto. To that end, a greater emphasis on multiple factor experiments for managed and unmanaged systems, in combination with simulative vegetative modelling, could increase our predictive capabilities regarding the impact of elevated CO2 on plant communities (e.g. agriculture, forestry) of human interest.

Key Concepts:

  • Direct effects of rising CO2 on plant biology are an underappreciated aspect of anthropogenic climate change.

  • Differential responses to elevated CO2 are observed at spatial and temporal levels.

  • Differentiation will affect competition, diversity and plant community demographics.

  • The basis for this differentiation is unclear, but fundamental changes in ecosystem dynamics and evolution are expected.

  • Need to move beyond a reductionist approach and integrate ecosystem responses to elevated CO2, in conjunction with appropriate modelling techniques for better forecasting of elevated CO2 impacts on plant systems (e.g. agricultural responses).


  • carbon dioxide;
  • photosynthesis;
  • growth;
  • ecosystems;
  • evolution;
  • ecology