, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 512-517

Predicting the response of leaf stomatal frequency to a future CO2-enriched atmosphere: constraints from historical observations

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 The majority of the water flux from the earth’s land surface to the atmosphere passes through the tiny pores (stomata) in the leaves of land plants. The maximum conductance to diffusion of the leaves, determined by the number and geometry of stomata, has a profound effect on the terrestrial water and energy balance. Among tree species, there is ever increasing evidence that anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations results in a decrease in stomatal frequency. The rate of historical CO2 responsiveness of individual tree species can be used to calibrate empirical models of non-linear (sigmoid) stomatal frequency response to CO2 increase. Modelled response curves for European tree birches (Betula pendula, Betula pubescens) and Durmast oak (Quercus petraea) predict different response limits to CO2 increase (∼350 and ∼400 ppmv, respectively), indicating that non-linear stomatal frequency responses may vary from one tree species to another. Information on a wider selection of species is needed, but the models suggest that the maximum effect of anthropogenic CO2 increase on stomatal frequency has already been reached. Further research is required to establish the effect of rapidly declining response rates on future stomatal conductance of the ecologically contrasting trees of boreal, temperate, subtropical and tropical forests.

Received: 4 August 1996/Accepted: 18 December 1996