Temperature-controlled open-top chambers for global change research


Richard J. Norby Fax: +1/423-576-9939rjn@ornl.gov


To enable experiments on the interactive effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 and increased air temperature on physiological processes in trees to be carried out, we altered the standard design of open-top chambers by replacing blowers with evaporative coolers and in-line heaters, with a feedback control system to maintain ambient or elevated air temperatures within the chambers. Ambient and elevated (+ 4 °C) temperature regimes were attained consistently and reliably throughout the growing season, with high reproducibility between chambers. From May through December the average of nearly 300,000 temperature measurements was 18.5 °C in ambient air, 18.9 ± 0.6 °C in six ambient chambers, and 22.4 ± 0.9 °C in six elevated temperature chambers. The difference in soil temperature between ambient and elevated chambers was 1.2 °C. Absolute humidity (vapour pressure) in the chambers was higher than that of ambient air, but it was generally similar between temperature treatments. Vapour pressure deficit therefore was higher in elevated temperature chambers than in ambient chambers, and this difference is considered an inseparable part of the temperature treatment. The addition of a temperature control system to open-top chambers removes what has been an important flaw in this important tool for global change research.