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Am J Bot. 1999 Aug;86(8):1154-9.

Genotypic variation for condensed tannin production in trembling aspen (POPULUS TREMULOIDES, salicaceae) under elevated CO2 and in high- and low-fertility soil.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210;


The carbon/nutrient balance hypothesis suggests that leaf carbon to nitrogen ratios influence the synthesis of secondary compounds such as condensed tannins. We studied the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on carbon to nitrogen ratios and tannin production. Six genotypes of Populus tremuloides were grown under elevated and ambient CO(2) partial pressure and high- and low-fertility soil in field open-top chambers in northern lower Michigan, USA. During the second year of exposure, leaves were harvested three times (June, August, and September) and analyzed for condensed tannin concentration. The carbon/nutrient balance hypothesis was supported overall, with significantly greater leaf tannin concentration at high CO(2) and low soil fertility compared to ambient CO(2) and high soil fertility. However, some genotypes increased tannin concentration at elevated compared to ambient CO(2), while others showed no CO(2) response. Performance of lepidopteran leaf miner (Phyllonorycter tremuloidiella) larvae feeding on these plants varied across genotypes, CO(2), and fertility treatments. These results suggest that with rising atmospheric CO(2), plant secondary compound production may vary within species. This could have consequences for plant-herbivore and plant-microbe interactions and for the evolutionary response of this species to global climate change.

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