Nitrogen use strategy drives interspecific differences in plant photosynthetic CO2 acclimation

Erqian Cui, Jianyang Xia, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Rising atmospheric CO2 concentration triggers an emergent phenomenon called plant photosynthetic acclimation to elevated CO2 (PAC). PAC is often characterized by a reduction in leaf photosynthetic capacity (Asat), which varies dramatically along the continuum of plant phylogeny. However, it remains unclear whether the mechanisms responsible for PAC are also different across plant phylogeny, especially between gymnosperms and angiosperms. Here, by compiling a dataset of 73 species, we found that although leaf Asat increased significantly from gymnosperms to angiosperms, there was no phylogenetic signal in the PAC magnitude along the phylogenetic continuum. Physio-morphologically, leaf nitrogen concentration (Nm), photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE), and leaf mass per area (LMA) dominated PAC for 36, 29, and 8 species, respectively. However, there was no apparent difference in PAC mechanisms across major evolutionary clades, with 75% of gymnosperms and 92% of angiosperms regulated by the combination of Nm and PNUE. There was a trade-off between Nm and PNUE in driving PAC across species, and PNUE dominated the long-term changes and inter-specific differences in Asat under elevated CO2. These findings indicate that nitrogen-use strategy drives the acclimation of leaf photosynthetic capacity to elevated CO2 across terrestrial plant species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3667-3677
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • elevated CO
  • nitrogen acquisition
  • nitrogen utilization
  • photosynthetic acclimation
  • plant phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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