Photosynthesis of temperate Eucalyptus globulus trees outside their native range has limited adjustment to elevated CO2 and climate warming



Eucalyptus species are grown widely outside of their native ranges in plantations on all vegetated continents of the world. We predicted that such a plantation species would show high potential for acclimation of photosynthetic traits across a wide range of growth conditions, including elevated [CO2] and climate warming. To test this prediction, we planted temperate Eucalyptus globulus Labill. seedlings in climate-controlled chambers in the field located >700 km closer to the equator than the nearest natural occurrence of this species. Trees were grown in a complete factorial combination of elevated CO2 concentration (eC; ambient [CO2] +240 ppm) and air warming treatments (eT; ambient +3 °C) for 15 months until they reached ca. 10 m height. There was little acclimation of photosynthetic capacity to eC and hence the CO2-induced photosynthetic enhancement was large (ca. 50%) in this treatment during summer. The warming treatment significantly increased rates of both carboxylation capacity (Vcmax) and electron transport (Jmax) (measured at a common temperature of 25 °C) during winter, but decreased them significantly by 20–30% in summer. The photosynthetic CO2 compensation point in the absence of dark respiration (Γ*) was relatively less sensitive to temperature in this temperate eucalypt species than for warm-season tobacco. The temperature optima for photosynthesis and Jmax significantly changed by about 6 °C between winter and summer, but without further adjustment from early to late summer. These results suggest that there is an upper limit for the photosynthetic capacity of E. globulus ssp. globulus outside its native range to acclimate to growth temperatures above 25 °C. Limitations to temperature acclimation of photosynthesis in summer may be one factor that defines climate zones where E. globulus plantation productivity can be sustained under anticipated global environmental change.