Productivity and compensatory responses of yellow-poplar trees in elevated C02

Author: Norby, Richard J.; Gunderson, Carla A.; Wullschleger, Stan D.; O’Neill, E. G.; McCracken, Mary K.

Description: Increased forest growth in response to globally rising CO2 concentrations could provide an additional sink for the excess carbon added to the atmosphere from fossil fuels. The response of trees to increased CO2, however, can be expected to be modified by the interactions of other environmental resources and stresses, higher-order ecological interactions and internal feedbacks inherent in the growth of large, perennial organisms. To test whether short-term stimulation of tree growth by elevated CO2 can be sustained without inputs from other environmental resources, we grew yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) saplings for most of three growing seasons with continuous exposure to ambient or elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO2. Despite a sustained increase in leaf-level photosynthesis and lower rates of foliar respiration in CO2-enriched trees, whole-plant carbon storage did not increase. The absence of a significant growth response is explained by changes in carbon allocation patterns, specifically a relative decrease in leaf production and an increase in fine root production. Although these compensatory responses reduced the potential increase in carbon storage in increased CO2 concentrations, they also favor the efficient use of resources over the longer term.

Subject headings: Yellow poplar trees; CO2; Carbon dioxide; Climate change; Carbon sink; Carbon storage

Publication year: 1992

Journal or book title: Nature

Volume: 357

Issue: 6376

Pages: 322-324

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Serial number: 3689

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