Spring leaf flush in aspen (Populus tremuloides) clones is altered by long-term growth at elevated carbon dioxide and elevated ozone concentration

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Early spring leaf out is important to the success of deciduous trees competing for light and space in dense forest plantation canopies. In this study, we investigated spring leaf flush and how long-term growth at elevated carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) and elevated ozone concentration ([O3]) altered leaf area index development in a closed Populus tremuloides (aspen) canopy. This work was done at the Aspen FACE experiment where aspen clones have been grown since 1997 in conditions simulating the [CO2] and [O3] predicted for ∼2050. The responses of two clones were compared during the first month of spring leaf out when CO2 fumigation had begun, but O3 fumigation had not. Trees in elevated [CO2] plots showed a stimulation of leaf area index (36%), while trees in elevated [O3] plots had lower leaf area index (-20%). While individual leaf area was not significantly affected by elevated [CO2], the photosynthetic operating efficiency of aspen leaves was significantly improved (51%). There were no significant differences in the way that the two aspen clones responded to elevated [CO2]; however, the two clones responded differently to long-term growth at elevated [O3]. The O3-sensitive clone, 42E, had reduced individual leaf area when grown at elevated [O3] (-32%), while the tolerant clone, 216, had larger mature leaf area at elevated [O3] (46%). These results indicate a clear difference between the two clones in their long-term response to elevated [O3], which could affect competition between the clones, and result in altered genotypic composition in future atmospheric conditions.

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Environmental Pollution