Report: High Carbon Dioxide Boosts Duke Forest Growth By 25 Percent

hat regulate water release, do not open as widely in elevated CO2.

DeLucia, one of a number of scientists at work at the FACTS-1 site, is studying the "carbon budget" of the experimental plots. Much like managing a checkbook, he is measuring how much of plants' carbon income is invested in new leaves, roots and stems, and how much is lost back into the atmosphere through respiration.

Shawna Naidu, a post doctoral researcher in DeLucia's laboratory who made one of eight presentations on the first year's FACTS-1 results at the August 1998 Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore, reported then that the 1997 growth rate in high-CO2 plots was 12 percent, a number that DeLucia has since recalculated as 16 percent.

DeLucia and Schlesinger are both skeptical that the current high growth rates will be sustained in part because of Swiss and Italian researchers tree ring studies around hot springs near Pisa and Siena, Italy that naturally emit carbon dioxide and other gases. Those studies, which also compared high-CO2 to control sites, found carbon dioxide's stimulatory effects decreased as trees aged.

An older tower ring at the FACTs-1 site built to test out the FACE concept has also logged reduced growth response to elevated CO2 beginning after the fourth of its six years of operation, Schlesinger added. But that plot only receives extra carbon dioxide during the daytime and is marred by "a lot of disturbance around the edge," he noted.

"In the few studies that have looked at how trees, such as those growing next to natural springs of CO2, respond over long periods of time, growth response is strong at first, then decays," said DeLucia. "Other models also predict this response.

"The mechanisms for this slowing of the growth response are not entirely clear; one reason is that trees may acclimate by slowing their photosynthesis rates."

Whether they end up being short term or longer

Contact: Monte Basgall
Duke University Medical Center

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