Effects of Elevated Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Tropospheric Ozone on Phytochemical Composition of Trembling Aspen ( Populus tremuloides ) and Paper Birch ( Betula papyrifera )

Abstract

Anthropogenic activities are altering levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and tropospheric ozone (O3). These changes can alter phytochemistry, and in turn, influence ecosystem processes. We assessed the individual and combined effects of elevated CO2 and O3 on the phytochemical composition of two tree species common to early successional, northern temperate forests. Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) were grown at the Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon dioxide and ozone Enrichment) facility under four combinations of ambient and elevated CO2 and O3. We measured, over three years (2006–08), the effects of CO2 and O3 on a suite of foliar traits known to influence forest functioning. Elevated CO2 had minimal effect on foliar nitrogen and carbohydrate levels in either tree species, and increased synthesis of condensed tannins and fiber in aspen, but not birch. Elevated O3 decreased nitrogen levels in both tree species and increased production of sugar, condensed tannins, fiber, and lignin in aspen, but not birch. The magnitude of responses to elevated CO2 and O3 varied seasonally for both tree species. When co-occurring, CO2 offset most of the changes in foliar chemistry expressed under elevated O3 alone. Our results suggest that levels of CO2 and O3 predicted for the mid-twenty-first century will alter the foliar chemistry of northern temperate forests with likely consequences for forest community and ecosystem dynamics.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Gusse for assistance with phytochemical analysis via NIRS, P. A. Townsend for support to JJC during the writing of this manuscript, and multiple undergraduate students for their extensive field and laboratory assistance. Aspen FACE was supported principally by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, Grant No. DE-FG02-95ER62125 to Michigan Technological University, and Contract No. DE-AC02-98CH10886 to Brookhaven National Laboratory, the US Forest Service Northern Global Change Program and North Central Research Station, Michigan Technological University, and Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service. This work was supported by U.S. Department of Energy (Office of Science, BER) grant DE-FG02-06ER64232 and University of Wisconsin Hatch grant WIS04898 to RLL and USDA NIFA AFRI Fellowship grant 2012-67012-19900 to JJC.

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Couture, J.J., Meehan, T.D., Rubert-Nason, K.F. et al. Effects of Elevated Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Tropospheric Ozone on Phytochemical Composition of Trembling Aspen ( Populus tremuloides ) and Paper Birch ( Betula papyrifera ) . J Chem Ecol 43, 26–38 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-016-0798-4

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Keywords

  • Aspen FACE
  • Atmospheric change
  • Betula papyriferia
  • Phytochemistry
  • Populus tremuloides