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  1. Abstract

    The effects of climate change on plants and ecosystems are mediated by plant hydraulic traits, including interspecific and intraspecific variability of trait phenotypes. Yet, integrative and realistic studies of hydraulic traits and climate change are rare. In a semiarid grassland, we assessed the response of several plant hydraulic traits to elevated CO2(+200 ppm) and warming (+1.5 to 3°C; day to night). For leaves of five dominant species (three graminoids and two forbs), and in replicated plots exposed to 7 years of elevated CO2, warming, or ambient climate, we measured: stomatal density and size, xylem vessel size, turgor loss point, and water potential (pre‐dawn). Interspecific differences in hydraulic traits were larger than intraspecific shifts induced by elevated CO2and/or warming. Effects of elevated CO2were greater than effects of warming, and interactions between treatments were weak or not detected. The forbs showed little phenotypic plasticity. The graminoids had leaf water potentials and turgor loss points that were 10% to 50% less negative under elevated CO2; thus, climate change might cause these species to adjust their drought resistance strategy away from tolerance and toward avoidance. The C4 grass also reduced allocation of leaf area to stomata under elevated CO2, which helps explain observations of higher soil moisture. The shifts in hydraulic traits under elevated CO2were not, however, simply due to higher soil moisture. Integration of our results with others' indicates that common species in this grassland are more likely to adjust stomatal aperture in response to near‐term climate change, rather than anatomical traits; this contrasts with apparent effects of changing CO2on plant anatomy over evolutionary time. Future studies should assess how plant responses to drought may be constrained by the apparent shift from tolerance (via low turgor loss point) to avoidance (via stomatal regulation and/or access to deeper soil moisture).

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  2. Premise

    The impact of elevated CO2concentration ([CO2]) and climate warming on plant productivity in dryland ecosystems is influenced strongly by soil moisture availability. We predicted that the influence of warming on the stimulation of photosynthesis by elevated [CO2] in prairie plants would operate primarily through direct and indirect effects on soil water.


    We measured light‐saturated photosynthesis (Anet), stomatal conductance (gs), maximum Rubisco carboxylation rate (Vcmax), maximum electron transport capacity (Jmax) and related variables in four C3plant species in the Prairie Heating and CO2Enrichment (PHACE) experiment in southeastern Wyoming. Measurements were conducted over two growing seasons that differed in the amount of precipitation and soil moisture content.


    Anetin the C3subshrubArtemisia frigidaand the C3forbSphaeralcea coccineawas stimulated by elevated [CO2] under ambient and warmed temperature treatments. Warming by itself reducedAnetin all species during the dry year, but stimulated photosynthesis inS. coccineain the wet year. In contrast,Anetin the C3grassPascopyrum smithiiwas not stimulated by elevated [CO2] or warming under wet or dry conditions. Photosynthetic downregulation under elevated [CO2] in this species countered the potential stimulatory effect under improved water relations. Warming also reduced the magnitude of CO2‐induced down‐regulation in this grass, possibly by sustaining high levels of carbon utilization.


    Direct and indirect effects of elevated [CO2] and warming on soil water was an overriding factor influencing patterns ofAnetin this semi‐arid temperate grassland, emphasizing the important role of water relations in driving grassland responses to global change.

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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The leaf economics spectrum 1,2 and the global spectrum of plant forms and functions 3 revealed fundamental axes of variation in plant traits, which represent different ecological strategies that are shaped by the evolutionary development of plant species 2 . Ecosystem functions depend on environmental conditions and the traits of species that comprise the ecological communities 4 . However, the axes of variation of ecosystem functions are largely unknown, which limits our understanding of how ecosystems respond as a whole to anthropogenic drivers, climate and environmental variability 4,5 . Here we derive a set of ecosystem functions 6 from a dataset of surface gas exchange measurements across major terrestrial biomes. We find that most of the variability within ecosystem functions (71.8%) is captured by three key axes. The first axis reflects maximum ecosystem productivity and is mostly explained by vegetation structure. The second axis reflects ecosystem water-use strategies and is jointly explained by variation in vegetation height and climate. The third axis, which represents ecosystem carbon-use efficiency, features a gradient related to aridity, and is explained primarily by variation in vegetation structure. We show that two state-of-the-art land surface models reproduce the first and most important axis of ecosystem functions. However, the models tend to simulate more strongly correlated functions than those observed, which limits their ability to accurately predict the full range of responses to environmental changes in carbon, water and energy cycling in terrestrial ecosystems 7,8 . 
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  5. Summary

    Autotrophic respiration is a major driver of the global C cycle and may contribute a positive climate warming feedback through increased atmospheric concentrations ofCO2. The extent of this feedback depends on plants' ability to acclimate respiration to maintain a constant carbon use efficiency (CUE).

    We quantified respiratory partitioning of gross primary production (GPP) andCUEof field‐grown trees in a long‐term warming experiment (+3°C). We delivered a13C–CO2pulse to whole tree crowns and chased that pulse in the respiration of leaves, whole crowns, roots, and soil. We also measured the isotopic composition of soil microbial biomass and the respiration rates of leaves and whole crowns.

    We documented homeostatic respiratory acclimation of foliar and whole‐crown respiration rates; the trees adjusted to experimental warming such that leaf‐level respiration rates were not increased. Experimental warming had no detectable impact on respiratory partitioning or mean residence times. Of the13C label acquired by the trees, aboveground respiration consumed 10%, belowground respiration consumed 40%, and the remaining 50% was retained.

    Experimental warming of +3°C did not alter respiratory partitioning at the scale of entire trees, suggesting that complete acclimation of respiration to warming is likely to dampen a positive climate warming feedback.

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