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Keywords:

  • Acclimation;
  • carbon dioxide concentration;
  • global climate change;
  • relative growth rate;
  • respiration

It has been recently recognized that increases in carbon dioxide concentration such as are anticipated for the earth's atmosphere in the next century often reduce plant respiration. There can be both a short-term reversible effect of unknown cause, and long-term acclimation, which may reflect the synthesis and maintenance of less metabolically expensive materials in plants grown at elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Because respiration provides energy and carbon intermediates for growth and maintenance, reductions in respiration by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations may have effects on physiology beyond an improvement in plant carbon balance. As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases, reduced respiration could be as important as increased photosynthesis in improving the ability of terrestrial vegetation to act as a sink for carbon, but it could also have other consequences.