Leaf gas exchange responses of 13 prairie grassland species to elevated CO2 and increased nitrogen supply

Tali D. Lee, Mark G. Tjoelker, David S. Ellsworth, Peter B. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Leaf gas exchange responses to elevated CO2 and N are presented for 13 perennial species, representing four functional groups: C3 grasses, C4 grasses, legumes, and nonleguminous forbs. Understanding how CO2 and N effects interact is important to predict plant community response to global change. Plants were field-grown in monoculture under current ambient and elevated (560 μmol mol-1) CO2 concentrations (free-air CO2 enrichment), in combination with soil N treatments, for two growing seasons. All species, regardless of functional group, showed pronounced photosynthetic acclimation to elevated CO2, resulting in minimal stimulation of photosynthesis (A) averaging +15% in C3 grasses, +8% in forbs, +7% in legumes and -2% in C4 grasses. The effects of CO2 and soil N supply did not interact for any leaf traits measured. Elevated CO2 consistently decreased stomatal conductance (gs) leading to 40% increase in A/gs. This substantial acclimation of photosynthesis was greater in magnitude than in most field studies, and was associated with the combined effects of decreased gs and decreased leaf N concentrations in response to growth under elevated CO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-418
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Elevated CO
  • Functional groups
  • Nitrogen availability
  • Photosynthetic acclimation
  • Prairie grassland
  • Stomatal conductance

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