Are fire resprouters more carbon limited than non-resprouters? Effects of elevated CO2 on biomass, storage and allocation of woody species

Peter J. Clarke, Anthony Manea*, Michelle R. Leishman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Resprouting ability is a key functional trait determining plant responses and vegetation dynamics after disturbances such as fire that shape most global biomes. It is likely that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations will alter resource allocation patterns in plants which in turn will alter resprouting responses. In this study, we asked: (1) do resprouters have greater allocation to storage than non-resprouters?; (2) if so, do resprouters account for this negative carbon balance by having reduced growth?; and (3) do resprouters have a relatively weaker growth response compared to non-resprouters under elevated CO2 levels due to their increased allocation to storage? To address these questions, we grew congeneric species-pairs of shrubs common to south-eastern Australia with contrasting resprouting abilities under ambient and elevated CO2 levels. We found that resprouters in general allocated more resources to storage (root non-structural carbohydrates and biomass) and had less total biomass than non-resprouters. Under elevated CO2 levels both sprouting types increased biomass production, suggesting they were carbon limited. Surprisingly, the resprouters allocated this additional carbon to biomass rather than to storage. This suggests that although elevated CO2 levels may not affect resprouting ability directly in resprouters, it may enhance other aspects of persistence such as escapability and bud protection. Furthermore, non-resprouters may also benefit from the additional carbon by being able to set seed more quickly and increase seed production thus enhancing their recruitment after fire. Thus, the relative benefits of elevated CO2 levels on resprouters versus non-resprouters remain equivocal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-771
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Climate change
  • Disturbance
  • Non-structural carbohydrates
  • Obligate seeder
  • Resprouting ability


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