Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 2569–2582 | Cite as

Species-Specific Response of Glucosinolate Content to Elevated Atmospheric CO2

  • David N. Karowe
  • David H. Seimens
  • Thomas Mitchell-Olds


The carbon/nutrient balance hypothesis has recently been interpreted to predict that plants grown under elevated CO2 environments will allocate excess carbon to defense, resulting in an increase in carbon-based secondary compounds. A related prediction is that, because plant growth will be increasingly nitrogen-limited under elevated CO2 environments, plants will allocate less nitrogen to defense, resulting in decreased levels of nitrogen-containing secondary compounds. We present the first evidence of decreased investment in nitrogen-containing secondary compounds for a plant grown under elevated CO2. We also present evidence that plant response is species-specific and is not correlated with changes in leaf nitrogen content or leaf carbon–nitrogen ratio. When three crucifers were grown at 724 ± 8 ppm CO2, total foliar glucosinolate content decreased significantly for mustard, but not for radish or turnip. Glucosinolate content of the second and fourth youngest mustard leaves decreased by 45% and 31%, respectively. In contrast, no significant change in total glucosinolate content was observed in turnip or radish leaves, despite significant decreases in leaf nitrogen content. Total glucosinolate content differed significantly among leaves of different age; however, the trend differed among species. For both mustard and turnip, glucosinolate content was significantly higher in older leaves, while the opposite was true for radish. No significant CO2 × leaf age interaction was observed, suggesting that intraplant patterns of allocation to defense will not change for these species. Changes in nitrogen allocation strategy are likely to be species-specific as plants experience increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. The ecological consequences of CO2-induced changes in plant defensive investment remain to be investigated.

Elevated CO2 glucosinolates crucifers plant defense carbon/nutrient balance hypothesis 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • David N. Karowe
    • 1
  • David H. Seimens
    • 2
  • Thomas Mitchell-Olds
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, McCracken HallWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazoo
  2. 2.Division of Natural SciencesPepperdine UniversityMalibu
  3. 3.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoula

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