• carbon dioxide;
  • sensing;
  • photosynthesis;
  • stomata;
  • growth

Abstract. Despite recent interest in the effects of high CO2 on plant growth and physiology, very little is known about the mechanisms by which plants sense changes in the concentration of this gas. Because atmospheric CO2 concentration is relatively constant and because the conductance of the cuticle to CO2 is low, sensory mechanisms are likely to exist only for intercellular CO2 concentration. Therefore, responses of plants to changes in atmospheric CO2 will depend on the effect of these changes on intercellular CO2 concentration. Although a variety of plant responses to atmospheric CO2 concentration have been reported, most of these can be attributed to the effects of intercellular CO2 on photosynthesis or stomatal conductance. Short-term and long-term effects of CO2 on photosynthesis and stomatal conductance are discussed as sensory mechanisms for responses of plants to atmospheric CO2. Available data suggest that plants do not fully realize the potential increases in productivity associated with increased atmospheric CO2. This may be because of genetic and environmental limitations to productivity or because plant responses to CO2 have evolved to cope with variations in intercellular CO2 caused by factors other than changes in atmospheric CO2.