Two tropical conifers show strong growth and water-use efficiency responses to altered CO2 concentration

Dalling, James W., Cernusak, Lucas A., Winter, Klaus, Aranda, Jorge, Garcia, Milton, Virgo, Aurelio, Cheesman, Alexander W., Baresch, Andres, Jaramillo, Carlos, and Turner, Benjamin L. (2016) Two tropical conifers show strong growth and water-use efficiency responses to altered CO2 concentration. Annals of Botany, 118 (6). pp. 1113-1125.

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Background and Aims: Conifers dominated wet lowland tropical forests 100 million years ago (MYA). With a few exceptions in the Podocarpaceae and Araucariaceae, conifers are now absent from this biome. This shift to angiosperm dominance also coincided with a large decline in atmospheric CO2 concentration (c(a)). We compared growth and physiological performance of two lowland tropical angiosperms and conifers at c(a) levels representing pre-industrial (280 ppm), ambient (400 ppm) and Eocene (800 ppm) conditions to explore how differences in c(a) affect the growth and water-use efficiency (WUE) of seedlings from these groups.

Methods: Two conifers (Araucaria heterophylla and Podocarpus guatemalensis) and two angiosperm trees (Tabebuia rosea and Chrysophyllum cainito) were grown in climate-controlled glasshouses in Panama. Growth, photosynthetic rates, nutrient uptake, and nutrient use and water-use efficiencies were measured.

Key Results: Podocarpus seedlings showed a stronger (66 %) increase in relative growth rate with increasing c(a) relative to Araucaria (19 %) and the angiosperms (no growth enhancement). The response of Podocarpus is consistent with expectations for species with conservative growth traits and low mesophyll diffusion conductance. While previous work has shown limited stomatal response of conifers to c(a), we found that the two conifers had significantly greater increases in leaf and whole-plant WUE than the angiosperms, reflecting increased photosynthetic rate and reduced stomatal conductance. Foliar nitrogen isotope ratios (delta N-15) and soil nitrate concentrations indicated a preference in Podocarpus for ammonium over nitrate, which may impact nitrogen uptake relative to nitrate assimilators under high c(a).

Significance: Podocarps colonized tropical forests after angiosperms achieved dominance and are now restricted to infertile soils. Although limited to a single species, our data suggest that higher c(a) may have been favourable for podocarp colonization of tropical South America 60 MYA, while plasticity in photosynthetic capacity and WUE may help account for their continued persistence under large changes in c(a) since the Eocene.

Item ID: 47100
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8290
Keywords: Araucaria heterophylla, Podocarpus guatemalensis, Tabebuia rosea, Chrysophyllum cainito, tropical conifer, angiosperm dominance, water-use efficiency, relative growth rate, nitrate assimilation, elevated CO2
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2017 08:02
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3108 Plant biology > 310806 Plant physiology @ 60%
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3007 Forestry sciences > 300703 Forest ecosystems @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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