The effect of elevated CO2 on the chemical composition and construction costs of leaves of 27 C3 species

H. Poorter, Y. Van Berkel, R. Baxter, J. Den Hertog, P. Dijkstra, R. M. Gifford, K. L. Griffin, C. Roumet, J. Roy, S. C. Wong

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349 Scopus citations


We determined the proximate chemical composition as well as the construction costs of leaves of 27 species, grown at ambient and at a twice-ambient partial pressure of atmospheric CO2. These species comprised wild and agricultural herbaceous plants as well as tree seedlings. Both average responses across species and the range in response were considered. Expressed on a total dry weight basis, the main change in chemical composition due to CO2 was the accumulation of total non-structural carbohydrates (TNC). To a lesser extent, decreases were found for organic N compounds and minerals. Hardly any change was observed for total structural carbohydrates (cellulose plus hemicellulose), lignin and lipids. When expressed on a TNC-free basis, decreases in organic N compounds and minerals were still present. On this basis, there was also an increase in the concentration of soluble phenolics. In terms of glucose required for biosynthesis, the increase in costs for one chemical compound - TNC was balanced by a decrease in the costs for organic N compounds. Therefore, the construction costs, the total amount of glucose required to produce 1 g of leaf, were rather similar for the two CO2 treatments; on average a small decrease of 3% was found. This decrease was attributable to a decrease of up to 30% in the growth respiration coefficient, the total CO2 respired [mainly for NAD(P)H and ATP] in the process of constructing 1 g of biomass. The main reasons for this reduction were the decrease in organic N compounds and the increase in TNC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)472-482
Number of pages11
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1997


  • C:N ratio
  • TNC
  • carbon dioxide
  • chemical composition
  • construction costs
  • growth respiration
  • lignin
  • minerals
  • organic acids
  • protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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