Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The carbon fertilization effect over a century of anthropogenic CO2 emissions: higher intracellular CO2 and more drought resistance among invasive and native grass species contrasts with increased water use efficiency for woody plants in the US Southwest.

Abstract

From 1890 to 2015, anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 270 to 400 mol mol-1. The effect of increased carbon emissions on plant growth and reproduction has been the subject of study of free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments. These experiments have found (i) an increase in internal CO2 partial pressure (ci) alongside acclimation of photosynthetic capacity, (ii) variable decreases in stomatal conductance, and (iii) that increases in yield do not increase commensurate with CO2 concentrations. Our data set, which includes a 115-year-long selection of grasses collected in New Mexico since 1892, is consistent with an increased ci as a response to historical CO2 increase in the atmosphere, with invasive species showing the largest increase. Comparison with Palmer Drought Sensitivity Index (PDSI) for New Mexico indicates a moderate correlation with Δ13C (r2=0.32, P<0.01) before 1950, with no correlation (r2=0.00, P=0.91) after 1950. These results indicate that increased ci may have conferred some drought resistance to these grasses through increased availability of CO2 in the event of reduced stomatal conductance in response to short-term water shortage. Comparison with C3 trees from arid environments (Pinus longaeva and Pinus edulis in the US Southwest) as well as from wetter environments (Bromus and Poa grasses in New Mexico) suggests differing responses based on environment; arid environments in New Mexico see increased intrinsic water use efficiency (WUE) in response to historic elevated CO2 while wetter environments see increased ci. This study suggests that (i) the observed increases in ci in FACE experiments are consistent with historical CO2 increases and (ii) the CO2 increase influences plant sensitivity to water shortage, through either increased WUE or ci in arid and wet environments, respectively.