Elevated [CO2] and nutrient status modified leaf phenology and growth rhythm of young Populus trichocarpa trees in a 3-year field study
Young individuals of a single clone of black cottonwood, in Iceland, were exposed for 3 years to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations [CO2] in whole-tree chambers at natural and high nutrient availability. No treatment effects were found at bud break or the start of shoot extension in spring. Autumn phenology was, however, affected both by elevated [CO2] and changes in nutrient status. The time of annual growth cessation was linearly related to leaf nitrogen concentration, irrespective of CO2 treatment. At low (natural) nutrient availability, elevated [CO2] accelerated growth cessation and bud set, which reduced the period of active growth. An earlier and more pronounced leaf senescence and corresponding loss of photosynthetic capacity further decreased carbon acquisition in elevated [CO2]. The negative [CO2] effect on duration of shoot extension and leaf senescence existed, but was not as pronounced, when trees grew at higher nutrient availability. Improved nutrient availability extended the shoot extension period and delayed leaf senescence. It is suggested that trees grown in elevated [CO2] altered their autumn phenology as an effect of a signal similar to that in trees growing at low nutrient availability, i.e. an imbalance between carbon and nitrogen sources. These alterations in autumn phenology may be important when predicting how trees will grow in a future CO2 environment.
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