Interactive effects of elevated CO2 and soil drought on growth and transpiration efficiency and its determinants in two European forest tree species

  • Guehl J
  • Picon C
  • Aussenac G
 et al. 
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he responses of growth and transpiration efficiency (W = biomass accumulation/water consumption) to ambient and elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations (350 and 700 μmol mol−1, respectively) were investigated under optimal nutrient supply in well-watered and in drought conditions in two temperate-forest tree species: Quercus petraea Liebl. and Pinus pinaster Ait. Under well-watered conditions, doubling the CO2 concentration for one growing season increased biomass growth by 138% in Q. petraea and by 63% in P. pinaster. In contrast, under drought conditions, elevated CO2 increased biomass growth by only 47% in Q. petraea and had no significant effect on biomass growth in P. pinaster. Transpiration efficiency was higher in Q. petraea than in P. pinaster in all treatments. This difference was linked (i) to lower carbon isotope discrimination (Δ), and thus lower values of the intercellular/ambient CO2 concentration (ci/ca) ratio, in Q. petraea, (ii) to lower values of leaf mass ratio (LMR, leaf mass/whole plant mass), which we suggest was positively related to the proportion of daytime carbon fixation lost by respiration (Φ), in Q. petraea, and (iii) to slightly lower C concentrations in Q. petraea than in P. pinaster. The CO2-promoted increase in W was higher in Q. petraea (+80%) than in P. pinaster (+50%), and the difference was associated with a more pronounced decrease in Φ in response to elevated CO2 in Q. petraea than in P. pinaster, which could be linked with the N dilution effect observed in Q. petraea. Because Φ also directly affects growth, the CO2-induced enhancement of Φ in Q. petraea is a crucial determinant of the growth stimulation observed in this species. Leaf gas exchange regulation was not the only factor involved in the responses of growth and W to elevated CO2 and drought, other physiological processes that have crucial roles include carbon and N allocation and respiration.

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  • J. M. Guehl

  • C. Picon

  • G. Aussenac

  • P. Gross

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