Effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on photosynthesis, growth and reproduction of branches of the tropical canopy tree species, Luehea seemannii Tr. & Planch.


C. E. Lovelock Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA. Fax: 301 2617954; e-mail: lovelock@serc.si.edu


Mature trees have already experienced substantial increases in CO2 concentrations during their lifetimes, and will experience continuing increases in the future. Small open-top chambers were used to enclose branchlets that were at a height of between 20 and 25 m in the canopy of the tree species Luehea seemannii Tr. & Planch. in a tropical forest in Panamá. Elevated concentrations of CO2 increased the rate of photosynthetic carbon fixation and decreased stomatal conductance of leaves, but did not influence the growth of leaf area per chamber, the production of flower buds and fruit nor the concentration of nonstructural carbohydrates within leaves. The production of flower buds was highly correlated with the leaf area produced in the second flush of leaves, indicating that the branchlets of mature trees of Luehea seemannii are autonomous to a considerable extent. Elevated levels of CO2 did increase the concentration of nonstructural carbohydrates in woody stem tissue. Elevated CO2 concentration also they increased the ratio of leaf area to total biomass of branchlets, and tended to reduce individual fruit weight. These data suggest that the biomass allocation patterns of mature trees may change under future elevated levels of CO2. Although there were no effects on growth during the experiment, the possibility of increased growth in the season following CO2 enrichment due to increased carbohydrate concentrations in woody tissue cannot be excluded.