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Am J Bot. 2001 Jun;88(6):1080-7.

Family- and population-level responses to atmospheric CO2 concentration: gas exchange and the allocation of C, N, and biomass in Plantago lanceolata (Plantaginaceae).

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  • 1Michigan State University, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 E. Gull Lake Drive, Hickory Corners, Michigan 49060 USA.


To ascertain the inheritance of responses to changing atmospheric CO(2) content, we partitioned response to elevated CO(2) in Plantago lanceolata between families and populations in 18 families in two populations. Plants were grown in 35 Pa and 71 Pa partial pressure of CO(2) (pCO(2)) in open-top chambers. We measured above- and belowground mass, carbon (C), nitrogen (N), hexose sugar, and gas exchange properties in both CO(2) treatments. Families within populations differed in mass, mass allocation, root : shoot ratios, aboveground percentage N, C : N ratio, and gas exchange properties. The CO(2) × family interaction is the main indicator of potential evolutionary responses to changing CO(2). Significant CO(2) × family interactions were observed for N content, C : N ratio, and photosynthetic rate (A: instantaneous light-saturated carbon assimilation capacity), intercellular CO(2) concentration, transpiration rate (E), and water use efficiency (WUE = A/E), but not for stomatal conductance. Families differed significantly in acclimation across time. The ratio of A in elevated vs. ambient growth CO(2), when measured at a common internal CO(2) partial pressure was 0.79, indicating down-regulation of A under CO(2) enrichment. Mass, C : N ratio, percentage, C (%C), and soluble sugar all increased significantly but overall %N did not change. Increases in %C and sugar were significant and were coincident with redistribution of N aboveground. The observed variation among populations and families in response to CO(2) is evidence of genetic variation in response and therefore of the potential for novel evolutionary trajectories with rising atmospheric CO(2).

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