Foliar gas exchange responses of two deciduous hardwoods during 3 years of growth in elevated CO2: no loss of photosynthetic enhancement


Carlo A. Gunderson, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6034, USA.


Responses of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were monitored throughout a 3-year field exposure of Liriodendron tulipifera (yellow-poplar) and Quercus alba (white oak) to elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO2. Exposure to atmospheres enriched with +150 and +300 umol mol-1 CO2 increased net photosynthesis by 12–144% over the course of the study. Net photosynthesis was consistently higher at +300 than at +150 umol mol-1 CO2. The effect of CO2 enrichment on stomatal conductance was limited, but instantaneous leaf-level water use efficiency increased significantly. No decrease in the responsiveness of photosynthesis to CO2 enrichment over time was detected, and the responses were consistent throughout the canopy and across successive growth flushes and seasons. The relationships between internal CO2 concentration and photosynthesis (e.g. photosynthetic capacity and carboxylation efficiency) were not altered by growth at elevated concentrations of CO2. No alteration in the timing of leaf senescence or abscission was detected, suggesting that the seasonal duration of effective gas-exchange was unaffected by CO2 treatment. These results are consistent with data previously reported for these species in controlled-environment studies, and suggest that leaf-level photosynthesis does not down-regulate in these species as a result of acclimation to CO2 enrichment in the field. This sustained enhancement of photosynthesis provides the opportunity for increased growth and carbon storage by trees as the atmospheric concentration of CO2 rises, but many additional factors interact in determining whole-plant and forest responses to global change.