Journal Article

Physiological and morphological responses to elevated CO<sub>2</sub> and a soil moisture deficit of temperate pasture species growing in an established plant community

H. Clark, P.C.D. Newton and D.J. Barker

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 50, issue 331, pages 233-242
Published in print February 1999 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online February 1999 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:
Physiological and morphological responses to elevated CO2 and a soil moisture deficit of temperate pasture species growing in an established plant community

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Periods of limited soil water availability are a feature of many temperate pasture systems and these have the potential to modify pasture plant and community responses to elevated atmospheric CO2. Using large pasture turves, previously exposed to elevated CO concentrations of 350 or 700 mmol mol−1 for 324 d2 under well-watered conditions, the morphological and physiological responses of pasture species growing at these CO2 concentrations were compared when subjected to a soil moisture deficit—and to recovery from the deficit—with those that continued to be well watered.

Net leaf photosynthesis of Trifolium repens (C3 legume), Plantago lanceolata (C3) and Paspalum dilatatum (C4) was increased by exposure to elevated CO2, but there was no consistent effect of CO2 on stomatal conductance. At low soil moistures, net photosynthesis declined and stomatal conductance increased in these three species. There was a strong CO2 × water interaction in respect of net photosynthesis; in Trifolium repens, for example, elevated CO2 increased net photosynthesis by approximately 50% under well-watered conditions and this increased to over 300% when soil moisture levels reached their minimum values. Similar values were recorded for both Paspalum dilatatum and Plantago lanceolata. Potential water use efficiency (net photosynthesis/stomatal conductance) was increased by both exposure to elevated CO2 and drought.

Leaf water status was measured in three species: Trifolium repens, Paspalum dilatatum and Holcus lanatus (C3). Total leaf water potential (ψt) and osmotic potential (ψπ) were decreased by drought, but CO2 concentration had no consistent effect. ψt and ψπ were highest in the C4 species Paspalum dilatatum and lowest in the legume Trifolium repens.

In the wet turves, rates of leaf extension of the C3 grasses Holcus lanatus and Lolium perenne at elevated CO2 were frequently higher than those at ambient CO2, but there was no effect of CO2 concentration on the rate recorded in the C4 grass Paspalum dilatatum or the rate of leaf appearance in the legume Trifolium repens. Drought reduced leaf extension rate irrespective of CO2 in all species, but in Holcus lanatus the reduction was less severe at elevated CO2. Immediately after the dry turves were rewatered the leaf extension rates on tillers of Holcus lanatus and Lolium perenne were higher than on tillers in the wet turves, but only at ambient CO2. Consequently, despite the greater leaf extension rate during the soil moisture deficit at elevated CO2, because of the overcompensation after rewatering at ambient CO2, total leaf extension over both the drying and rewetting period did not differ between CO2 concentrations for these C3 grass species. Further investigation of this difference in response between CO2 treatments is warranted given the frequent drying and wetting cycles experienced by many temperate grasslands.

Keywords: Carbon dioxide enrichment; photosynthesis; stomatal conductance; leaf extension rate

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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