Plant Ecology

, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 195-204

Gas exchange and water relations of two Rocky Mountain shrub species exposed to a climate change manipulation

  • M. Rebecca ShawAffiliated withDepartment of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution of Washington
  • , Michael E. LoikAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, California State University
  • , John HarteAffiliated withEnergy and Resources Group, University of California

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Gas exchange and water relations responses to warming were compared for two shrub species, Artemisia tridentata spp. vaseyana (Asteraceae), a widely distributed evergreen species of the Great Basin and the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, and Pentaphylloides floribunda (Rosaceae), a deciduous shrub limited in distribution to moist, high-elevation meadows. Plants were exposed to an in situ infrared (IR) climate change manipulation at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, near Crested Butte, CO. Measurements of gas exchange and water relations were made on the two species in July and August, 1993 from plants growing in situ in infrared-heated and control plots. Carbon dioxide uptake, water loss, leaf temperature, water use efficiency, and water potential were compared to test the hypothesis that leaf and soil responses to IR will cause leaf level changes in photosynthesis. Photosynthetic CO2 uptake and water use efficiency increased for A. tridentata (2.9 vs. 1.9 μmol m−2 s−1 and 1.2 vs. 0.7 mmol C/mol H2O) in the heated plots compared to the controls, while water potential was significantly lower in the heated plots (−1.1 vs. −0.5 MPa). The heating treatment decreased rates of photosynthesis for P. floribunda, but not significantly so. For A. tridentata, the results are consistent with the community-level changes observed with heating. Taken together, the evidence suggests that global warming is likely to result in increasing dominance of A. tridentata in subalpine meadow habitat now dominated by forbs.

Artemisia Climate change Pentaphylloides Photosynthesis Rocky Mountains Subalpine Transpiration Water potential Water use efficiency