Environmental and stomatal control of photosynthetic enhancement in the canopy of a sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.) plantation during 3 years of CO2 enrichment


Correspondence: Carla A. Gunderson. Fax: 1-865-576-9939, E-mail: gundersonca@ornl.gov


Light-saturated photosynthetic and stomatal responses to elevated CO2 were measured in upper and mid-canopy foliage of a sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L) plantation exposed to free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) for 3 years, to characterize environmental interactions with the sustained CO2 effects in an intact deciduous forest stand. Responses were evaluated in relation to one another, and to seasonal patterns and natural environmental stresses, including high  temperatures, vapour pressure deficits (VPD), and drought. Photosynthetic CO2 assimilation (A) averaged 46% higher in the +200 µmol mol−1 CO2 treatment, in mid- and upper canopy foliage. Stomatal conductance (gs) averaged 14% (mid-canopy) and 24% (upper canopy) lower under CO2 enrichment. Variations in the relative responses of A and gs were linked, such that greater relative stimulation of A was observed on dates when relative reductions in gs were slight. Dry soils and high VPD reduced gs and A in both treatments, and tended to diminish treatment differences. The absolute effects of CO2 on A and gs were minimized whenever gs was low (<0·15 mol m−2 s−1), but relative effects, as the ratio of elevated to ambient rates, varied greatly under those conditions. Both stomatal and non-stomatal limitations of A were involved during late season droughts. Leaf temperature had a limited influence on A and gs, and there was no detectable relationship between prevailing temperature and CO2 effects on A or gs. The responsiveness of A and gs to elevated CO2, both absolute and relative, was maintained through time and within the canopy of this forest stand, subject to seasonal constraints and variability associated with limiting air and soil moisture.