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Keywords:

  • dioecious species;
  • elevated CO2;
  • growth;
  • physiology;
  • sex-specific response;
  • Silene latifolia

Abstract

Dioecy is found in nearly half of the angiosperm families, but little is known about how rising atmospheric CO2 concentration will affect male and female individuals of dioecious species. We examined gender-specific physiological and growth responses of Silene latifolia Poiret, a widespread dioecious species, to a doubled atmospheric CO2 concentration in environmentally controlled growth chambers. Elevated CO2 significantly increased photosynthesis in both male and female plants and by a similar magnitude. Males and females did not differ in net photosynthetic rate, but females had significantly greater biomass production than males, regardless of CO2 concentrations. Vegetative mass increased by 39% in males and in females, whereas reproductive mass increased by 82% in males and 97% in females at elevated CO2. As a result, proportionately more carbon was allocated to reproduction in male and female plants at elevated CO2. Higher CO2 increased individual seed mass significantly, but had no effect on the number or mass of seeds per female plant. Our results demonstrated that rising atmospheric CO2 will alter the allocation patterns in both male and female S. latifolia Poiret plants by shifting proportionally more photosynthate to reproduction.