, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 335-342

Elevated CO2 ameliorates birch response to high temperature and frost stress: implications for modeling climate-induced geographic range shifts

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Despite predictions that both atmospheric CO2 concentrations and air temperature will rise together, very limited data are currently available to assess the possible interactive effects of these two global change factors on temperate forest tree species. Using yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) as a model species, we studied how elevated CO2 (800 vs. 400 μl l−1) influences seedling growth and physiological responses to a 5°C increase in summer air temperatures (31/26 vs. 26/21°C day/night), and how both elevated CO2 and air temperature during the growing season influence seedling ability to survive freezing stress during the winter dormant season. Our results show that while increased temperature decreases seedling growth, temperature-induced growth reductions are significantly lower at elevated CO2 concentrations (43% vs. 73%). The amelioration of high-temperature stress was related to CO2-induced reductions in both whole-shoot dark respiration and transpiration. Our results also show that increased summer air temperature, and to a lesser degree CO2 concentration, make dormant winter buds less susceptible to freezing stress. We show the relevance of these results to models used to predict how climate change will influence future forest species distribution and productivity, without considering the direct or interactive effects of CO2.