Response of red alder seedlings to CO enrichment and water stress



Red alder (Alnus rubra Bong.) is a nitrogen-fixing pioneer tree species of the Pacific Northwest of North America. We investigated the response of different seed sources of red alder to elevated atmospheric CO2 and to varied levels of water stress. Seeds were stratified, germinated and grown for up to 147 d under ambient (350 //.I I−1) or elevated (700 ftl I−1) CO2.

There were no significant interactions of seed source latitude with either treatment, although seedlings from more northerly sources were larger. Elevated CO2 and low moisture stress resulted in larger plants with more leaf area; effects of the two factors appeared additive. Effects of both factors on biomass allocation, including root: shoot ratios, were small or nonsignificant. Elevated CO2 decreased specific nitrogenase activity and generally increased photosynthesis (A) and stomatal conductance (g). The ratio A: g, potential water use efficiency, also increased when plants were under water stress. Elevated CO2 appears to improve drought tolerance in red alder.

Overall, these results indicate that red alder would benefit in total plant growth from increased ambient CO2 and could tolerate changes in precipitation.