, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 3–15

Open top chambers for exposing plant canopies to elevated CO2 concentration and for measuring net gas exchange

  • Paul W. Leadley
  • Bert G. Drake

DOI: 10.1007/BF00048141

Cite this article as:
Leadley, P.W. & Drake, B.G. Vegetatio (1993) 104: 3. doi:10.1007/BF00048141


Open top chamber design and function are reviewed. All of the chambers described maintain CO2 concentrations measured at a central location within ±30 ppm of a desired target when averaged over the growing season, but the spatial and temporal range within any chamber may be closer to 100 ppm. Compared with unchambered companion plots, open top chambers modify the microenvironment in the following ways: temperatures are increased up to 3°C depending on the chamber design and location of the measurement; light intensity is typically diminished by as much as 20%; wind velocity is lower and constant; and relative humidity is higher. The chamber environment may significantly alter plant growth when compared with unchambered controls, but the chamber effect on growth has not been clearly attributed to a single or even a few environmental factors.

A method for modifying an open top chamber for tracking gas exchange between natural vegetation and the ambient air is described. This modification consists of the addition of a top with exit chimney to reduce dilution of chamber CO2 by external ambient air, is quickly made and permits estimation of the effects of elevated CO2 and water vapor exchange.

The relatively simple design and construction of open top chambers make them the most likely method to be used in the near future for long-term elevated CO2 exposure of small trees, crops and grassland ecosystems. Improvements in the basic geometry to improve control of temperature, reduce the variation of CO2 concentrations, and increase the turbulence and wind speed in the canopy boundary layer are desirable objectives. Similarly, modifications for measuring water vapor and carbon dioxide gas exchange will extend the usefulness of open top chambers to include non-destructive monitoring of the responses of ecosystems to rising atmospheric CO2.


Open top chamber Gas exchange Photosynthesis Elevated CO2 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul W. Leadley
    • 1
  • Bert G. Drake
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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