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Accueil du site → Master → Afrique du Sud → 2019 → Growth and photosynthetic responses of Acacia (Vachellia) seedlings to atmospheric CO2 increased from glacial to current concentrations : underlying mechanisms and ecological implications

Rhodes University (2019)

Growth and photosynthetic responses of Acacia (Vachellia) seedlings to atmospheric CO2 increased from glacial to current concentrations : underlying mechanisms and ecological implications

Anderson, Bruce Maurice

Titre : Growth and photosynthetic responses of Acacia (Vachellia) seedlings to atmospheric CO2 increased from glacial to current concentrations : underlying mechanisms and ecological implications

Auteur : Anderson, Bruce Maurice

Université de soutenance : Rhodes University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2019

Résumé partiel
The African Acacia species Vachellia karroo, V. robusta, V. nilotica, and V. tortilis are some of the most invasive species implicated in bush encroachment and woody thickening of historically open savannas in southern Africa. This is partially explained by historic increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which are proposed to have promoted the growth and survivorship of C3 tree seedlings relative to C4 grasses. However, the uniformity of CO2 responsiveness and differences among Vachellia species remain largely undetermined. Here we investigate the growth and photosynthetic responses of four Vachellia species, all implicated in woody encroachment, but originating from distinct climatic niches. Exposing these species to a range of sub-ambient CO2 concentrations (12 – 40 Pa) showed that V. karroo, V. robusta, V. nilotica and V. tortilis all responded strongly and fairly consistently to increasing CO2 concentrations, acting as a ‘functional type’ despite being selected from different geographic regions and having different climatic niches. Combined average net CO2 assimilation rates increased by 130% despite significant, but low levels of down-regulation and decreased stomatal conductance. The increased photosynthetic rates stimulated growth and biomass production in all compartments, with no significant differences in interspecific above and below ground allocation. Growth rates and dry biomass increased by 50% and 186%, respectively, while leaf level water use efficiency (ratio of net CO2 assimilation rate to transpiration rate) increased by an average of 218%. When this was scaled to the whole plant level, this stimulation was decreased to 80%. The decrease was the result of the CO2 stimulated increase in canopy areas, which increased leaf area for water loss. The seedlings’ total number of spinescent physical defenses, as well as the average mass and spine mass fraction also increased with rising CO2. These thicker spines could act as better deterrents against vertebrate browsers. Spine density was unchanged, however, showing that the increased spine numbers were associated with larger seedlings at higher CO2 rather than an increase in the number of spines per stem length.

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