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Keywords:

  • Acclimation;
  • Betula pendula ;
  • climate warming;
  • genotype;
  • leaf chemistry;
  • metabolomics;
  • trees

Abstract

The responses of plants to environmental factors are connected to the time of day. In this study, silver birch (Betula pendula) was grown in growth chambers at five different night temperatures (6–22 °C), using gradual changes during the evening and morning hours. Despite the increased night respiration and unaffected daytime net photosynthesis (per square metre), the carbon uptake (biomass) of birch did not decrease, probably due to enhanced biochemical processes on warmer nights and the advantage of higher temperatures during the evening and morning hours. The plant stem height, internode length, stem dry weight (DW), stem mass fraction and specific leaf area increased with warmer night temperatures. Changes in growth and metabolite concentrations were partly nonlinear along the temperature gradient. Thus, the temperature effect depends on the temperature window considered. Genotypes had both common and genotype-specific biochemical responses to night temperatures. The common responses among genotypes were related to growth responses, whereas the unique responses may indicate genotype-specific differences in acclimation. The differences in genotypic growth and metabolite levels are valuable for assessing genotype qualities and understanding the connections between the metabolome and growth.