Respiration in a future, higher-CO2 world


and present address: Jeffrey S. Amthor, Department of Agronomy and Range Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.


Abstract. Apart from its impact on global warming, the annually increasing atmospheric [CO2] is of interest to plant scientists primarily because of its direct influence on photosynthesis and photorespiration in C3 species. But in addition, ‘dark’ respiration, another major component of the carbon budget of higher plants, may be affected by a change in [CO2] independent of an increase in temperature. Literature pertaining to an impact of [CO2] on respiration rate is reviewed. With an increase in [CO2], respiration rate is increased in some cases, but decreased in others. The effects of [CO2] on respiration rate may be direct or indirect. Mechanisms responsible for various observations are proposed. These proposed mechanisms relate to changes in: (1) levels of nonstructural carbohydrates, (2) growth rate and structural phytomass accumulation, (3) composition of phytomass, (4) direct chemical interactions between CO2 and respiratory enzymes, (5) direct chemical interactions between CO2 and other cellular components, (6) dark CO2 fixation rate, and (7) ethylene biosynthesis rate. Because a range-of (possibly interactive) effects exist, and present knowledge is limited, the impact of future [CO2] on respiration rate cannot be predicted. Theoretical considerations and types of experiments that can lead to an increase in the understanding of this issue are outlined.