A simple hypothesis of how leaf and canopy-level transpiration and assimilation respond to elevated CO2 reveals distinct response patterns between disturbed and undisturbed vegetation

Randall J. Donohue*, Michael L. Roderick, Tim R. McVicar, Yuting Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    45 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Elevated CO2 increases leaf-level water-use efficiency (ω) almost universally. How canopy-level transpiration and assimilation fluxes respond to increased ω is currently unclear. We present a simple, resource-availability-based hypothesis of how equilibrium (or mature) leaf and canopy transpiration and assimilation rates, along with leaf area index (L), respond to elevated CO2. We quantify this hypothesis in the form of a model and test it against observations from eight Free Air CO2 Enrichment sites that span a wide range of resource availabilities. Sites were grouped according to vegetation disturbance status. We find the model adequately accounts for the responses of undisturbed vegetation (R2 = 0.73, 11% error) but cannot account for the responses of disturbed vegetation (R2 = 0.47, 17% error). At undisturbed sites, the responses of L and of leaf and canopy transpiration vary predictably (7% error) with resource availability, whereas the leaf assimilation response is less predictable. In contrast, the L and transpiration flux responses at the disturbed (mostly forested) sites are highly variable and are not strongly related to resource availability. Initial analyses suggest that they are more strongly related to regrowth age than to resource availability. We conclude that (i) our CO2 response hypothesis is valid for capturing the responses of undisturbed vegetation only, (ii) that the responses of disturbed vegetation are distinctly different from undisturbed vegetation, and (iii) that these differences need to be accounted for when predicting the effects of elevated CO2 on land surface processes generally, and on leaf area and water fluxes in particular.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)168-184
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
    Volume122
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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