Consequences of elevated carbon dioxide and ozone for foliar chemical composition and dynamics in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera)

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Atmospheric chemical composition affects foliar chemical composition, which in turn influences the dynamics of both herbivory and decomposition in ecosystems. We assessed the independent and interactive effects of CO2 and O3 fumigation on foliar chemistry of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) at a Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) facility in northern Wisconsin. Leaf samples were collected at five time periods during a single growing season, and analyzed for nitrogen, starch and condensed tannin concentrations, nitrogen resorption efficiencies (NREs), and C:N ratios. Enriched CO2 reduced foliar nitrogen concentrations in aspen and birch; O3 only marginally reduced nitrogen concentrations. NREs were unaffected by pollution treatment in aspen, declined with O3 exposure in birch, and this decline was ameliorated by enriched CO2. C:N ratios of abscised leaves increased in response to enriched CO2 in both tree species. O3 did not significantly alter C:N ratios in aspen, although values tended to be higher in + CO2 + O3 leaves. For birch, O3 decreased C:N ratios under ambient CO2 and increased C:N ratios under elevated CO2. Thus, under the combined pollutants, the C:N ratios of both aspen and birch leaves were elevated above the averaged responses to the individual and independent trace gas treatments. Starch concentrations were largely unresponsive to CO2 and O3 treatments in aspen, but increased in response to elevated CO2 in birch. Levels of condensed tannins were negligibly affected by CO2 and O3 treatments in aspen, but increased in response to enriched CO2 in birch. Results from this work suggest that changes in foliar chemical composition elicited by enriched CO2 are likely to impact herbivory and decomposition, whereas the effects of O3 are likely to be minor, except in cases where they influence plant response to CO2. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Environmental Pollution