We investigated the shifts in plant carbon (C) and water dynamics by measuring rates of photosynthesis, transpiration, and instantaneous water use efficiency (WUE) in three common species of “old-field” plants—two C3 forb species (Plantago lanceolata and Taraxacum officinale) and one C3 grass species (Elymus repens)—under 12 experimentally altered temperature and precipitation regimes at the Boston Area Climate Experiment (BACE) in Waltham, Massachusetts. We also measured shifts in foliar C and nitrogen (N) content to determine possible changes in plant C/nutrient balance. We hypothesized that the warming treatment would cause an increase in photosynthesis rates, unless water was limiting; therefore, we expected an interactive effect of warming and precipitation treatments. We found that warming and drought reduced leaf-level photosynthesis most dramatically when environmental or seasonal conditions produced soils that were already dry. In general, the plants transpired fastest when soils were wet and slowest when soils were dry. Drought treatments increased WUE relative to plants in the ambient and wet treatments but only during the driest and warmest background conditions. Leaf N concentration increased with warming, thereby indicating that future warming may cause some plants to take up more soil N and/or allocate more N to their leaves, possibly as consequences of increased nutrient availability. There were no significant interactive effects of the warming and precipitation treatments together across all seasons, indicating that responses were not synergistic or ameliorative.


© 2012 by International Journal of Plant Sciences


climate change, photosynthesis, transpiration, foliar chemistry, warming, precipitation

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