Photosynthetic responses of forest understory tree species to long-term exposure to elevated carbon dioxide concentration at the Duke Forest FACE experiment

  • Springer C
  • Thomas R
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We examined the photosynthetic responses of four species of saplings growing in the understory of the Duke Forest FACE experiment during the seventh year of exposure to elevated CO 2 concentration ([CO 2 ]). Saplings of these same species were measured in the first year of the Duke Forest FACE experiment and at that time showed only seasonal fluctuations in acclimation of photosynthesis to elevated [CO 2 ]. Based on observations from the Duke Forest FACE experiment, we hypothesized that after seven years of exposure to elevated [CO 2 ] significant photosynthetic down-regulation would be observed in these tree species. To test our hypothesis, photosynthetic CO 2 -response and light-response curves, along with chlorophyll fluorescence, chlorophyll concentration and foliar N were measured twice during the summer of 2003. Exposure to elevated [CO 2 ] continued to increase photosynthesis in all species measured after seven years of treatment with the greatest photosynthetic increase observed near saturating irradiances. In all species, elevated [CO 2 ] increased electron transport efficiency but did not significantly alter carboxylation efficiency. Quantum yield estimated by light curves, chlorophyll concentration, and foliar nitrogen concentrations were unaffected by elevated [CO 2 ]. Contrary to our hypothesis, there is little evidence of progressive N limitation of leaf-level processes in these understory tree species after seven years of exposure to elevated [CO 2 ] in the Duke Forest FACE experiment. © 2007 Heron Publishing.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Elevated CO concentration 2
  • Free air carbon enrichment
  • Loblolly pine forest
  • Photosynthetic down-regulation
  • Progressive nitrogen limitation

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  • C.J. Springer

  • R.B. Thomas

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