Respiration as a percentage of daily photosynthesis in whole plants is homeostatic at moderate, but not high, growth temperatures


Author for correspondence: Owen K. Atkin Tel: +44 1904 32 8560 Fax: +44 1904 32 8505 Email:


  • • Here, we investigated the impact of temperature on the carbon economy of two Plantago species from contrasting habitats.
  • • The lowland Plantago major and the alpine Plantago euryphylla were grown hydroponically at three constant temperatures: 13, 20 and 27°C. Rates of photosynthetic CO2 uptake (P) and respiratory CO2 release (R) in shoots and R in roots were measured at the growth temperature using intact plants. At each growth temperature, air temperatures were changed to establish short-term temperature effects on the ratio of R to P (R/P).
  • • In both species, R/P was essentially constant in plants grown at 13 and 20°C. However, R/P was substantially greater in 27°C-grown plants, particularly in P. euryphylla. The increase in R/P at 27°C would have been even greater had biomass allocation to roots not decreased with increasing growth temperature. Short-term increases in air temperature increased R/P in both species, with the effects of air temperature being most pronounced in 13°C-grown plants.
  • • We conclude that temperature-mediated changes in biomass allocation play an important role in determining whole-plant R/P values, and, while homeostasis of R/P is achieved across moderate growth temperatures, homeostasis is not maintained when plants are exposed to growth temperatures higher than usually experienced in the natural habitat.