Effect of Elevated Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Open-top Chambers on Transpiration in a Tallgrass Prairie
- Dale J. Bremer *,
- Jay M. Ham and
- Clenton E. Owensby
Increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) may influence plant-water relations in natural and agricultural ecosystems. A tallgrass prairie near Manhattan, KS, was exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 using open-top chambers (OTCs). Heat balance sap flow gauges were used to measure transpiration in ironweed [Vernonia baldwini var. interior (Small) Schub.], a C3 forb, and on individual grass culms of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash], both C4 grasses, in each of three treatments: (i) CE (chamber enriched, 2× ambient CO2); (ii) CA (chamber ambient, no CO2 enrichment); and (iii) NC (no chamber, no CO2 enrichment). Sap flow data were coupled with measurements of stomatal conductance, plant/canopy resistance, and whole-chamber evapotranspiration (ET) to determine the effect of elevated CO2 on water use at different scales. Because of frequent rainfall during the study, all data were collected under well-watered conditions. Comparisons of CE and CA showed that sap flow was reduced by 33% in ironweed, 18% in big bluestem, and 22% in indiangrass under CO2 enrichment. Whole-chamber ET was reduced by 23 to 27% under CO2 enrichment. Comparisons of CA and NC showed that the environmental effect of the OTCs caused a 21 to 24% reduction in transpiration. Stomatal conductance decreased from 7.9 to 3.6 mm s−1 in big bluestem and from 5.3 to 3.2 mm s−1 in indiangrass under CO2 enrichment. Soil water was consistently highest under elevated CO2, reflecting the large reductions in transpiration. During sap flow measurements, whole-plant stomatal resistance to water vapor flux in big bluestem increased from 103 to 194 s m−1 under elevated CO2.
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