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Keywords:

  • elevated carbon dioxide: photosynthetic acclimation;
  • source-sink balance;
  • root/shoot ratio

Abstract. While photosynthesis of C3 plants is stimulated by an increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration, photosynthetic capacity is often reduced after long-term exposure to elevated CO2. This reduction appears to be brought about by end product inhibition, resulting from an imbalance in the supply and demand of carbohydrates. A review of the literature revealed that the reduction of photosynthetic capacity in elevated CO2 was most pronounced when the increased supply of carbohydrates was combined with small sink size. The volume of pots in which plants were grown affected the sink size by restricting root growth. While plants grown in small pots had a reduced photosynthetic capacity, plants grown in the field showed no reduction or an increase in this capacity. Pot volume also determined the effect of elevated CO2 on the root/shoot ratio: the root/shoot ratio increased when root growth was not restricted and decreased in plants grown in small pots. The data presented in this paper suggest that plants growing in the field will maintain a high photosynthetic capacity as the atmospheric CO2 level continues to rise.