, Volume 229, Issue 4, pp 837–846 | Cite as

Gas exchange and photosynthetic performance of the tropical tree Acacia nigrescens when grown in different CO2 concentrations

  • Malcolm PossellEmail author
  • C. Nicholas Hewitt
Original Article


The photosynthetic responses of the tropical tree species Acacia nigrescens Oliv. grown at different atmospheric CO2 concentrations—from sub-ambient to super-ambient—have been studied. Light-saturated rates of net photosynthesis (A sat) in A. nigrescens, measured after 120 days exposure, increased significantly from sub-ambient (196 μL L−1) to current ambient (386 μL L−1) CO2 growth conditions but did not increase any further as [CO2] became super-ambient (597 μL L−1). Examination of photosynthetic CO2 response curves, leaf nitrogen content, and leaf thickness showed that this acclimation was most likely caused by reduction in Rubisco activity and a shift towards ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate regeneration-limited photosynthesis, but not a consequence of changes in mesophyll conductance. Also, measurements of the maximum efficiency of PSII and the carotenoid to chlorophyll ratio of leaves indicated that it was unlikely that the pattern of A sat seen was a consequence of growth [CO2] induced stress. Many of the photosynthetic responses examined were not linear with respect to the concentration of CO2 but could be explained by current models of photosynthesis.


Acacia Elevated CO2 Nitrogen content Photosynthesis Sub-ambient CO2 Water-use efficiency 






We thank David Beerling (University of Sheffield, UK) for helpful comments on the manuscript, G. Johnston (Lancaster University, UK) for technical assistance in manufacturing and maintaining the experimental chambers and E. Bottoms (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Lancaster, UK) for assistance with the elemental analyses. This work was funded by a Natural Environmental Research Council award (NE/E003672/1) and benefited from support from the European Science Foundation “VOCBAS” programme and EU “ISONET” Marie Curie RTN.


  1. Ainsworth EA, Rogers A (2007) The response of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance to rising [CO2]: mechanisms and environmental interactions. Plant Cell Environ 30:258–270PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson LJ, Maherali H, Johnson HB, Polley HW, Jackson RB (2001) Gas exchange and photosynthetic acclimation over sub-ambient to elevated CO2 in a C3–C4 grassland. Glob Chang Biol 7:693–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Augustin L, Barbante C et al (2004) Eight glacial cycles from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 429:623–628PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker NR, Rosenqvist E (2004) Applications of chlorophyll fluorescence can improve crop production strategies: an examination of future possibilities. J Exp Bot 55:1607–1621PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beerling DJ, Mayle FE (2006) Contrasting effects of climate and CO2 on Amazonian ecosystems since the last glacial maximum. Glob Chang Biol 12:1977–1984CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beerling DJ, Osborne CP (2006) The origin of the savanna biome. Glob Chang Biol 12:2023–2031CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beerling DJ, Chaloner WG, Huntley B, Pearson JA, Tooley MJ (1993) Stomatal density responds to the glacial cycle of environmental change. Proc R Soc Lond Ser B-Biol Sci 251:133–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bernacchi CJ, Portis AR, Nakano H, von Caemmerer S, Long SP (2002) Temperature response of mesophyll conductance. Implications for the determination of Rubisco enzyme kinetics and for limitations to photosynthesis in vivo. Plant Physiol 130:1992–1998PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bernacchi CJ, Morgan PB, Ort DR, Long SP (2005) The growth of soybean under free air [CO2] enrichment (FACE) stimulates photosynthesis while decreasing in vivo Rubisco capacity. Planta 220:434–446PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bjorkman O, Demmig B (1987) Photon yield of O2 evolution and chlorophyll fluorescence characteristics at 77 K among vascular plants of diverse origins. Planta 170:489–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bush MB, Silman MR (2004) Observations on Late Pleistocene cooling and precipitation in the lowland Neotropics. J Quat Sci 19:677–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cen YP, Sage RF (2005) The regulation of rubisco activity in response to variation in temperature and atmospheric CO2 partial pressure in sweet potato. Plant Physiol 139:979–990PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Centritto M, Loreto F, Chartzoulakis K (2003) The use of low [CO2] to estimate diffusional and non-diffusional limitations of photosynthetic capacity of salt-stressed olive saplings. Plant Cell Environ 26:585–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Drake BG, Gonzalez-Meler MA, Long SP (1997) More efficient plants: a consequence of rising atmospheric CO2? Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol 48:609–639PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eissenstat DM, Graham JH, Syvertsen JP, Drouillard DL (1993) Carbon economy of sour orange in relation to mycorrhizal colonization and phosphorus status. Ann Bot 71:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ethier GJ, Livingston NJ (2004) On the need to incorporate sensitivity to CO2 transfer conductance into the Farquhar-von Caemmerer-Berry leaf photosynthesis model. Plant Cell Environ 27:137–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans JR, Schortemeyer M, McFarlane N, Atkin OK (2000) Photosynthetic characteristics of 10 Acacia species grown under ambient and elevated atmospheric CO2. Aust J Plant Physiol 27:13–25Google Scholar
  18. Farquhar GD, Sharkey TD (1982) Stomatal conductance and photosynthesis. Annu Rev Plant Physiol Plant Mol Biol 33:317–345Google Scholar
  19. Farquhar GD, Von Caemmerer S, Berry JA (1980) A biochemical model of photosynthetic CO2 assimilation in leaves of C3 species. Planta 149:78–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Germplasm Resources Information Network—(GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville (01 September 2008)
  21. Gill RA, Polley HW, Johnson HB, Anderson LJ, Maherali H, Jackson RB (2002) Nonlinear grassland responses to past and future atmospheric CO2. Nature 417:279–282PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harley P, Otter L, Guenther A, Greenberg J (2003) Micrometeorological and leaf-level measurements of isoprene emissions from a southern African savanna. J Geophys Res-Atmos 108 (art. no. 8468)Google Scholar
  23. Indermuhle A, Stocker TF et al (1999) Holocene carbon-cycle dynamics based on CO2 trapped in ice at Taylor Dome, Antarctica. Nature 398:121–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt K, Tignor MMB, Miller HL (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 996Google Scholar
  25. Johnson HB, Polley HW, Mayeux HS (1993) Increasing CO2 and plant–plant interactions—effects on natural vegetation. Vegetatio 104:157–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Long SP, Moya EG, Imbamba SK, Kamnalrut A, Piedade MTF, Scurlock JMO, Shen YK, Hall DO (1989) Primary productivity of natural grass ecosystems of the tropics—a reappraisal. Plant Soil 115:155–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Long SP, Ainsworth EA, Rogers A, Ort DR (2004) Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide: plants face the future. Annu Rev Plant Biol 55:591–628PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maherali H, Johnson HB, Jackson RB (2003) Stomatal sensitivity to vapour pressure difference over a subambient to elevated CO2 gradient in a C3/C4 grassland. Plant Cell Environ 26:1297–1306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayle FE, Beerling DJ (2004) Late Quaternary changes in Amazonian ecosystems and their implications for global carbon cycling. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 214:11–25Google Scholar
  30. Mayle FE, Beerling DJ, Gosling WD, Bush MB (2004) Responses of Amazonian ecosystems to climatic and atmospheric carbon dioxide changes since the last glacial maximum. Philos Trans Royal Soc Lon Ser B-Biol Sci 359:499–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Monnin E, Indermuhle A, Dallenbach A, Fluckiger J, Stauffer B, Stocker TF, Raynaud D, Barnola JM (2001) Atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the last glacial termination. Science 291:112–114PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Petit JR, Jouzel J et al (1999) Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420, 000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399:429–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Polley HW, Johnson HB, Mayeux HS (1992) Carbon dioxide and water fluxes of C3 annuals and C3 and C4 perennials at sub-ambient CO2 concentrations. Funct Ecol 6:693–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Polley HW, Johnson HB, Marino BD, Mayeux HS (1993a) Increase in C3 plant water-use efficiency and biomass over glacial to present CO2 concentrations. Nature 361:61–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Polley HW, Johnson HB, Mayeux HS, Malone SR (1993b) Physiology and growth of wheat across a sub-ambient carbon-dioxide gradient. Ann Bot 71:347–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Polley HW, Johnson HB, Mayeux HS (1995) Nitrogen and water requirements of C3 plants grown at glacial to present carbon-dioxide concentrations. Funct Ecol 9:86–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Polley HW, Mielnick PC, Dugas WA, Johnson HB, Sanabria J (2006) Increasing CO2 from subambient to elevated concentrations increases grassland respiration per unit of net carbon fixation. Glob Chang Biol 12:1390–1399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Possell M, Hewitt CN, Beerling DJ (2005) The effects of glacial atmospheric CO2 concentrations and climate on isoprene emissions by vascular plants. Glob Chang Biol 11:60–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rodeghiero M, Niinemets U, Cescatti A (2007) Major diffusion leaks of clamp on leaf cuvettes still unaccounted: how erroneous are the estimates of the Farquhar et al. model parameters? Plant Cell Environ 30:1006–1022PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rogers A, Gibon Y, Stitt M, Morgan PB, Bernacchi CJ, Ort DR, Long SP (2006) Increased C availability at elevated carbon dioxide concentration improves N assimilation in a legume. Plant Cell Environ 29:1651–1658PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Royer DL, Osborne CP, Beerling DJ (2005) Contrasting seasonal patterns of carbon gain in evergreen and deciduous trees of ancient polar forests. Paleobiology 31:141–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sage RF (1995) Was low atmospheric CO2 during the Pleistocene a limiting factor for the origin of agriculture. Glob Chang Biol 1:93–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sage RF, Coleman JR (2001) Effects of low atmospheric CO2 on plants: more than a thing of the past. Trends Plant Sci 6:18–24PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sage RF, Reid CD (1992) Photosynthetic acclimation to sub-ambient CO2 (20 Pa) in the C3 annual Phaseolus vulgaris L. Photosynthetica 27:605–617Google Scholar
  45. Scholes RJ, Gureja N, Giannecchinni M, Dovie D, Wilson B, Davidson N, Pigott K, McLoughlin C, van der Velde K, Freeman A, Bradley S, Smart R, Ndala S (2001) The environment and vegetation of the flux measurement site near Skukuza, Kruger National Park. Koedoe 44:73–83Google Scholar
  46. Sharkey TD (1988) Estimating the rate of photorespiration in leaves. Physiol Plant 73:147–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Singsaas EL, Ort DR, Delucia EH (2004) Elevated CO2 effects on mesophyll conductance and its consequences for interpreting photosynthetic physiology. Plant Cell Environ 27:41–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Taub DR, Seemann JR, Coleman JS (2000) Growth in elevated CO2 protects photosynthesis against high-temperature damage. Plant Cell Environ 23:649–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tuohy JM, Prior JAB, Stewart GR (1991) Photosynthesis in relation to leaf nitrogen and phosphorus-content in Zimbabwean Trees. Oecologia 88:378–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van de Water PK, Leavitt SW, Betancourt JL (1994) Trends in stomatal density and 13C/12C Ratios of Pinus flexilis needles during last glacial–interglacial cycle. Science 264:239–243PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wellburn AR (1994) The spectral determination of chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b, as well as total carotenoids, using various solvents with spectrophotometers of different resolution. J Plant Physiol 144:307–313Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

Personalised recommendations