Journal Article

Ecophysiological responses of woody plants to past CO<sub>2</sub> concentrations

David J. Beerling

in Tree Physiology

Volume 16, issue 4, pages 389-396
Published in print April 1996 | ISSN: 0829-318X
e-ISSN: 1758-4469 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/treephys/16.4.389
Ecophysiological responses of woody plants to past CO2 concentrations

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An approach is detailed for calculating historical rates of CO2 uptake and water loss of leaves from measurements of leaf δ13C composition and climatic information. This approach was applied to investigate leaf gas exchange metabolism of woody taxa during the past 200 years of atmospheric CO2 increase and in response to the longer-term atmospheric CO2 increases plants experienced over the Pleistocene. Reconstructed net assimilation rates and water use efficiencies increased in response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations in both sets of material, whereas stomatal conductance, showing the combined responses of changes in stomatal density and leaf assimilation rates, was generally less responsive. Woody temperate taxa maintained a nearly constant ci/ca ratio in response to the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over both timescales, in part, as a result of changes in stomatal density. The reconstructed leaf-scale physiological responses to past global climatic and atmospheric change corroborated those anticipated from experimental work indicating the adequate capacity of experiments, at least at the scale of individual leaves, to predict plant responses to future environmental change.

Keywords: assimilation rate; climate change; CO2 uptake; leaf δ13C composition; Pinus flexilis; Salix herbacea; stomatal conductance; water use efficiency

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Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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