Monoterpene emission from coniferous trees in response to elevated CO2 concentration and climate warming


John V.H. Constable, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 845 West Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607, USA, fax +1/312-996-2805, e-mail


It was hypothesized that high CO2 availability would increase monoterpene emission to the atmosphere. This hypothesis was based on resource allocation theory which predicts increased production of plant secondary compounds when carbon is in excess of that required for growth. Monoterpene emission rates were measured from needles of (a) Ponderosa pine grown at different CO2 concentrations and soil nitrogen levels, and (b) Douglas fir grown at different CO2 concentrations. Ponderosa pine grown at 700 μmol mol–1 CO2 exhibited increased photosynthetic rates and needle starch to nitrogen (N) ratios when compared to trees grown at 350 μmol mol–1 CO2. Nitrogen availability had no consistent effect on photosynthesis. Douglas fir grown at 550 μmol mol–1 CO2 exhibited increased photosynthetic rates as compared to growth at 350 μmol mol–1 CO2 in old, but not young needles, and there was no influence on the starch/N ratio. In neither species was there a significant effect of elevated growth CO2 on needle monoterpene concentration or emission rate. The influence of climate warming and leaf area index (LAI) on monoterpene emission were also investigated. Douglas fir grown at elevated CO2 plus a 4 °C increase in growth temperature exhibited no change in needle monoterpene concentration, despite a predicted 50% increase in emission rate. At elevated CO2 concentration the LAI increased in Ponderosa pine, but not Douglas fir. The combination of increased LAI and climate warming are predicted to cause an 80% increase in monoterpene emissions from Ponderosa pine forests and a 50% increase in emissions from Douglas fir forests. This study demonstrates that although growth at elevated CO2 may not affect the rate of monoterpene emission per unit biomass, the effect of elevated CO2 on LAI, and the effect of climate warming on monoterpene biosynthesis and volatilization, could increase canopy monoterpene emission rate.