Effects of elevated CO2 and O3 on wood density, wood anatomical properties and decomposition of northern hardwoods

Emmanuel Ebanyenle, Michigan Technological University


Anthropogenic activities continue to drive atmospheric CO2 and O3 concentrations to levels higher than during the pre-industrial era. Accumulating evidence indicates that both elevated CO2 and elevated O3 could modify the quantity and biochemistry of woody plant biomass. Anatomical properties of woody plants are largely influenced by the activity of the cambium and the growth characteristics of wood cells, which are in turn influenced by a range of environmental factors. Hence, alterations in the concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and / or O3 could also impact wood anatomical properties. Many fungi derive their metabolic resources for growth from plant litter, including woody tissue, and therefore modifications in the quantity, biochemistry and anatomical properties of woody plants in response to elevated CO2 and / or O3 could impact the community of wood-decaying fungi and rates of wood decomposition. Consequently carbon and nutrient cycling and productivity of terrestrial ecosystem could also be impacted. Alterations in wood structure and biochemistry of woody plants could also impact wood density and subsequently impact wood quality. This dissertation examined the long term effects of elevated CO2 and / or O3 on wood anatomical properties, wood density, wood-decaying fungi and wood decomposition of northern hardwood tree species at the Aspen Free-Air CO2 and O3 Enrichment (Aspen FACE) project, near Rhinelander, WI, USA. Anatomical properties of wood varied significantly with species and aspen genotypes and radial position within the stem. Elevated CO2 did not have significant effects on wood anatomical properties in trembling aspen, paper birch or sugar maple, except for marginally increasing (P < 0.1) the number of vessels per square millimeter. Elevated O3 marginally or significantly altered vessel lumen diameter, cell wall area and vessel lumen area proportions depending on species and radial position. In line with the modifications in the anatomical properties, elevated CO2 and O3, alone, significantly modified wood density but effects were species and / or genotype specific. However, the effects of elevated CO2 and O3, alone, on wood anatomical properties and density were ameliorated when in combination. Wood species had a much greater impact on the wood-decaying fungal community and initial wood decomposition rate than did growth or decomposition of wood in elevated CO2 and / or O3. Polyporales, Agaricales, and Russulales were the dominant orders of fungi isolated. Based on the current results, future higher levels of CO2 and O3 may have moderate effects on wood quality of northern hardwoods, but for utilization purposes these may not be considered significant. However, wood-decaying fungal community composition and decomposition of northern hardwoods may be altered via shifts in species and / or genotype composition under future higher levels of CO2 and O3.