, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 329–344 | Cite as

Carbon assimilation variation and control in Picea rubens, Picea mariana, and their hybrids under ambient and elevated CO2

  • John E. MajorEmail author
  • Alex Mossler
  • Debby C. Barsi
  • Moira Campbell
  • John Malcolm
Original Paper


Key message

After 3 years of CO 2 treatments, A stimulation from ambient to elevated CO 2 was strongly related to the total dry mass change (%), supporting the sink demand A hypothesis.


Adaptations related to gas exchange are important fitness traits in plants and have significant growth and ecological implications. Assimilation (A) and assimilation to internal CO2 (AC i ) response curve parameters were quantified from a red spruce (RS) (Picea rubens Sarg.)—black spruce (BS) [P. mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.] controlled-cross hybrid complex grown under ambient and elevated CO2 conditions. Under ambient conditions, maximum A (A max), maximum rate of carboxylation by rubisco (V cmax), maximum rate of electron transport (J max), and carboxylation efficiency (CE) generally increased with increasing BS content; however, under elevated CO2 conditions, hybrid index 50 (hybrid index number is the percentage of RS, balance BS) often had greater values than the other indices. There were significant hybrid index, CO2, and hybrid index × CO2 effects for A growth at 360 ppm (A 360) and 720 ppm (A 720). The net A stimulation (A stim), from ambient to elevated CO2 treatment after 3 years was 10.8, 57.8, 74.1, 69.8, and 58.7 %, for hybrid indices 0 (BS), 25, 50, 75, and 100 (RS), respectively. Why does BS have the least A stim, hybrid index 50 the most, and RS a moderate level? There was a significant relationship between A 360 and ambient total biomass among indices (P = 0.096), but none was found between A 720 and elevated total biomass. However, A stim (%) was strongly related to the change in total dry mass (%) in response to elevated CO2 (R 2 = 0.931, P = 0.008), supporting the hypothesis that sink demand drives A. Traits A max, V cmax and J max were correlated to total chlorophyll concentration. Moreover, A max V cmax and J max also showed a significant underlying male effect, particularly under ambient conditions consistent with the paternal inheritance of the chloroplast genome.


A stimulation Elevated CO2 Fitness Hybridization Paternal inheritance 



We gratefully acknowledge useful comments received from Drs. Kurt Johnsen, Guy Larocque, and Yuhui Weng. In addition, the greenhouse and growth-chamber growing skills of Laurie Yeates and Terry Hay and the technical skills of Stephanie West are thankfully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Major
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alex Mossler
    • 1
  • Debby C. Barsi
    • 2
  • Moira Campbell
    • 1
  • John Malcolm
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service - Atlantic Forestry CentreFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest ServiceOttawaCanada

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