To test inter- and intraspecific variability in the responsiveness to elevated CO2, 9–14 different genotypes of each of 12 perennial species from fertile permanent grassland were grown in Lolium perenne swards under ambient (35 Pa) and elevated (60 Pa) atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) for 3 years in a free air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) experiment. The plant species were grouped according to their functional types: grasses (L. perenne, L. multiflorum, Arrhenatherum elatius, Dactylis glomerata, Festuca pratensis, Holcus lanatus, Trisetum flavescens), non-legume dicots (Rumex obtusifolius, R. acetosa, Ranunculus friesianus), and legumes (Trifolium repens, T. pratense). Yield (above a cutting height of 4.5 cm) was measured three times per year. The results were as follow. (1) There were highly significant differences in the responsiveness to elevated pCO2 between the three functional types; legumes showed the strongest and grasses the weakest yield increase at elevated pCO2. (2) There were differences in the temporal development of responsiveness to elevated pCO2 among the functional types. The responsiveness of the legumes declined from the first to the second year, while the responsiveness of the non-legume dicots increased over the 3 years. During the growing season, the grasses and the non-legume dicots showed the strongest response to elevated pCO2 during reproductive growth in the spring. (3) There were no significant genotypic differences in responsiveness to elevated pCO2. Our results suggest that, due to interspecific differences in the responsiveness to elevated pCO2, the species proportion within fertile temperate grassland may change if the increase in pCO2 continues. Due to the temporal differences in the responsiveness to elevated pCO2 among species, complex effects of elevated pCO2 on competitive interactions in mixed swards must be expected. The existence of genotypic variability in the responsiveness to elevated pCO2, on which selection could act, was not found under our experimental conditions.
Oecologia – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 5, 1997
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