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Plant Growth and Competition at Elevated CO2: On Winners, Losers and Functional Groups

Hendrik Poorter and Marie-Laure Navas
The New Phytologist
Vol. 157, No. 2 (Feb., 2003), pp. 175-198
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the New Phytologist Trust
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1514027
Page Count: 24
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Plant Growth and Competition at Elevated  CO2: On Winners, Losers and Functional Groups
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Abstract

The effects of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations on vegetative growth and competitive performance were evaluated, using five meta-analyses. Paying special attention to functional groups, we analysed responses at three integration levels: carbon economy parameters, vegetative biomass of isolated plants, and growth in competition. CO2 effects on seed biomass and plant-to-plant variability were also studied. Underlying the growth stimulation is an increased unit leaf rate (ULR), especially for herbaceous dicots. This is mainly caused by an increase in the whole-plant rate of photosynthesis. The increased ULR is accompanied by a decrease in specific leaf area. The net result of these and other changes is that relative growth rate is only marginally stimulated. The biomass enhancement ratio (BER) of individually grown plants varies substantially across experiments/species, and size variability in the experimental populations is a vital factor in this. Fast-growing herbaceous C3 species respond more strongly than slow-growing C3 herbs or C4 plants. CAM species and woody plants show intermediate responses. When grown in competition, C4 species show lowest responses to elevated CO2 at high nutrient conditions, whereas at low nutrient levels N2-fixing dicots respond relatively strongly. No systematic differences were found between slow- and fast-growing species. BER values obtained for isolated plants cannot be used to estimate BER of the same species grown in interspecific competition - the CO2 response of monocultures may be a better predictor.

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