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A tree's response to environmental changes: What can we expect over the next 100 years?
Date:10/9/2009

t over the long term that scientists are able to use stomatal density of fossilized leaves to determine historical atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, short-term responses to changes in CO2 concentrations have previously been found to be much more variable, and very little concrete data exist on how long-lived organisms respond to changing CO2 concentrations. "We currently do not know how the anatomy and water relations of individual trees will respond to changes in climate and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 over their lifetimes," Miller-Rushing said. "Understanding these responses will be key to predicting how forests might contribute to changes in carbon and water cycles over the next 100 years."

Miller-Rushing and his colleagues examined the stomatal density on leaves, the length of the cells that surround the stomata (called guard cells), and the leaves' efficiency of water use (a measurement that compares the amount of carbon that is converted to sugar with the amount that passes through the stomata) in 27 trees growing at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts for the past century. By examining several dried specimens from each plant that had been collected over the past hundred years, they were able to assess these characteristics in a temporal framework. During this period, global atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by approximately 29%. Miller-Rushing and colleagues found that stomatal density declined while guard cell length increased in oaks and hornbeams, although these changes were not dependent on the magnitude of changes in CO2 concentrations. Intrinsic water use efficiency did not change significantly over time, suggesting that it may not respond to changes in CO2 concentrations over the lifetimes of individual trees, possibly because of compensating changes in stomatal density and guard cell size.

"This finding may have important
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert

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