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Plant Physiol. 2008 Dec;148(4):2144-55. doi: 10.1104/pp.108.129890. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Bundle sheath leakiness and light limitation during C4 leaf and canopy CO2 uptake.

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  • 1Physiological Ecology Group, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EA, United Kingdom.


Perennial species with the C(4) pathway hold promise for biomass-based energy sources. We have explored the extent that CO(2) uptake of such species may be limited by light in a temperate climate. One energetic cost of the C(4) pathway is the leakiness () of bundle sheath tissues, whereby a variable proportion of the CO(2), concentrated in bundle sheath cells, retrodiffuses back to the mesophyll. In this study, we scale from leaf to canopy level of a Miscanthus crop (Miscanthus x giganteus hybrid) under field conditions and model the likely limitations to CO(2) fixation. At the leaf level, measurements of photosynthesis coupled to online carbon isotope discrimination showed that leaves within a 3.3-m canopy (leaf area index = 8.3) show a progressive increase in both carbon isotope discrimination and as light decreases. A similar increase was observed at the ecosystem scale when we used eddy covariance net ecosystem CO(2) fluxes, together with isotopic profiles, to partition photosynthetic and respiratory isotopic flux densities (isofluxes) and derive canopy carbon isotope discrimination as an integrated proxy for at the canopy level. Modeled values of canopy CO(2) fixation using leaf-level measurements of suggest that around 32% of potential photosynthetic carbon gain is lost due to light limitation, whereas using determined independently from isofluxes at the canopy level the reduction in canopy CO(2) uptake is estimated at 14%. Based on these results, we identify as an important limitation to CO(2) uptake of crops with the C(4) pathway.

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