Rising CO2 drives divergence in water use efficiency of evergreen and deciduous plants

Wuu Kuang Soh*, Charilaos Yiotis, Michelle Murray, Andrew Parnell, Ian J. Wright, Robert A. Spicer, Tracy Lawson, Rodrigo Caballero, Jennifer C. McElwain

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    59 Citations (Scopus)
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    Intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE), defined as the ratio of photosynthesis to stomatal conductance, is a key variable in plant physiology and ecology. Yet, how rising atmospheric CO2 concentration affects iWUE at broad species and ecosystem scales is poorly understood. In a field-based study of 244 woody angiosperm species across eight biomes over the past 25 years of increasing atmospheric CO2 (~45 ppm), we show that iWUE in evergreen species has increased more rapidly than in deciduous species. Specifically, the difference in iWUE gain between evergreen and deciduous taxa diverges along a mean annual temperature gradient from tropical to boreal forests and follows similar observed trends in leaf functional traits such as leaf mass per area. Synthesis of multiple lines of evidence supports our findings. This study provides timely insights into the impact of Anthropocene climate change on forest ecosystems and will aid the development of next-generation trait-based vegetation models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbereaax7906
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalScience Advances
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2019

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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