Contrasting acclimation responses to elevated CO2 and warming between an evergreen and a deciduous boreal conifer




Dusenge, Mirindi E.
Madhavji, Sasha
Way, Danielle

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Blackwell Publishing Ltd


Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations may warm northern latitudes up to 8°C by the end of the century. Boreal forests play a large role in the global carbon cycle, and the responses of northern trees to climate change will thus impact the trajectory of future CO2 increases. We grew two North American boreal tree species at a range of future climate conditions to assess how growth and carbon fluxes were altered by high CO2 and warming. Black spruce (Picea mariana, an evergreen conifer) and tamarack (Larix laricina, a deciduous conifer) were grown under ambient (407 ppm) or elevated CO2 (750 ppm) and either ambient temperatures, a 4°C warming, or an 8°C warming. In both species, the thermal optimum of net photosynthesis (ToptA) increased and maximum photosynthetic rates declined in warm-grown seedlings, but the strength of these changes varied between species. Photosynthetic capacity (maximum rates of Rubisco carboxylation, Vcmax, and of electron transport, Jmax) was reduced in warmgrown seedlings, correlating with reductions in leaf N and chlorophyll concentrations. Warming increased the activation energy for Vcmax and Jmax (EaV and EaJ, respectively) and the thermal optimum for Jmax. In both species, the ToptA was positively correlated with both EaV and EaJ, but negatively correlated with the ratio of Jmax/Vcmax. Respiration acclimated to elevated temperatures, but there were no treatment effects on the Q10 of respiration (the increase in respiration for a 10°C increase in leaf temperature). A warming of 4°C increased biomass in tamarack, while warming reduced biomass in spruce. We show that climate change is likely to negatively affect photosynthesis and growth in black spruce more than in tamarack, and that parameters used to model photosynthesis in dynamic global vegetation models (EaV and EaJ) show no response to elevated CO2.



acclimation, boreal conifers, climate change, evergreen and deciduous, Larix laricina, Picea mariana, Vcmax and Jmax


Dusenge ME, Madhavji S, Way DA. Contrasting acclimation responses to elevated CO2 and warming between an evergreen and a deciduous boreal conifer. Glob Change Biol. 2020;26:3639–3657. https://doi. org/10.1111/gcb.15084


Global Change Biology


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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License



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