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Tree Physiol. 1998 Jul;18(7):441-450.

Long-term photosynthetic acclimation to increased atmospheric CO(2) concentration in young birch (Betula pendula) trees.

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  • 1Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, Darwin Building, Edinburgh University, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JU, U.K.


To study the long-term response of photosynthesis to elevated atmospheric CO(2) concentration in silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.), 18 trees were grown in the field in open-top chambers supplied with 350 or 700 &mgr;mol mol(-1) CO(2) for four consecutive growing seasons. Maximum photosynthetic rates, stomatal conductance and CO(2) response curves were measured over the fourth growing season with a portable photosynthesis system. The photosynthesis model developed by Farquhar et al. (1980) was fitted to the CO(2) response curves. Chlorophyll, soluble proteins, total nonstructural carbohydrates, nitrogen and Rubisco activity were determined monthly. Elevated CO(2) concentration stimulated photosynthesis by 33% on average over the fourth growing season. However, comparison of maximum photosynthetic rates at the same CO(2) concentration (350 or 700 &mgr;mol mol(-1)) revealed that the photosynthetic capacity of trees grown in an elevated CO(2) concentration was reduced. Analysis of the response curves showed that acclimation to elevated CO(2) concentration involved decreases in carboxylation efficiency and RuBP regeneration capacity. No clear evidence for a redistribution of nitrogen within the leaf was observed. Down-regulation of photosynthesis increased as the growing season progressed and appeared to be related to the source-sink balance of the trees. Analysis of the main leaf components revealed that the reduction in photosynthetic capacity was accompanied by an accumulation of starch in leaves (100%), which was probably responsible for the reduction in Rubisco activity (27%) and to a lesser extent for reductions in other photosynthetic components: chlorophyll (10%), soluble protein (9%), and N concentrations (12%) expressed on an area basis. Despite a 21% reduction in stomatal conductance in response to the elevated CO(2) treatment, stomatal limitation was significantly less in the elevated, than in the ambient, CO(2) treatment. Thus, after four growing seasons exposed to an elevated CO(2) concentration in the field, the trees maintained increased photosynthetic rates, although their photosynthetic capacity was reduced compared with trees grown in ambient CO(2).

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