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Physiol Plant. 2002 Jan;114(1):57-64.

Does the direct effect of atmospheric CO2 concentration on leaf respiration vary with temperature? Responses in two species of Plantago that differ in relative growth rate.

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Risø National Laboratory, Plant Ecosystems and Nutrient Cycling Programme, Building 309, PO Box 49, DK-4000, Denmark Department of Biology, The University of York, PO Box 373, York YO10 5YW, UK.


The objective of this study was to investigate the direct effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations on leaf respiration in darkness (R) over a broad range of measurement temperatures. Our aim was to further elucidate the underlying mechanism(s) of the often-reported inhibition of leaf R by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Experiments were conducted using two species of Plantago that differed in maximum relative growth rate (fast-growing Plantago lanceolata L. and the slow-growing P. euryphylla Briggs, Carolin & Pulley). Rates of leaf respiration (R) were measured at atmospheric CO2 concentrations ranging from 75 to 2000 &mgr;mol mol-1 at temperatures from 12 to 42 degrees C. R was measured as CO2 release with a portable gas exchange system with infrared gas analysers. Our hypothesis was that the changes in temperature alter the flux coefficient (i.e. the extent to which changes in potential enzyme activity has an effect on the rate of a reaction) of enzymes potentially affected by CO2. Initial analysis of our results suggested that R was inhibited by elevated CO2 in both species, with the apparent degree of inhibition being greatest at low temperature. Moreover, the apparent degree of inhibition following a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration from 350 to 700 &mgr;mol mol-1 was similar to that reported by several previous studies (approximately 14% and 26% for P. lanceolata and P. euryphylla, respectively) at a temperature equal to the mean of the previous studies. However, subsequent correction for diffusion leaks of CO2 across the gas exchange's cuvette gaskets revealed that no significant inhibition had occurred in either species, at any temperature. The inhibitory effect of elevated CO2 on leaf respiratory CO2 release reported by previous studies may therefore have been overestimated.

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