Higher thermal acclimation potential of respiration but not photosynthesis in two alpine Picea taxa in contrast to two lowland congeners

Xiao Wei Zhang, Jing Ru Wang, Ming Fei Ji, Richard Ian Milne, Ming Hao Wang, Jian Quan Liu, Sheng Shi, Shu Li Yang, Chang Ming Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The members of the genus Picea form a dominant component in many alpine and boreal forests which are the major sink for atmospheric CO<inf>2</inf>. However, little is known about the growth response and acclimation of CO<inf>2</inf> exchange characteristics to high temperature stress in Picea taxa from different altitudes. Gas exchange parameters and growth characteristics were recorded from four year old seedlings of two alpine (Picea likiangensis vars. rubescens and linzhiensis) and two lowland (P. koraiensis and P. meyeri) taxa. Seedlings were grown at moderate (25°C/15°C) and high (35°C/25°C) day/night temperatures, for four months. The approximated biomass increment (ΔD<sup>2</sup>H) for all taxa decreased under high temperature stress, associated with decreased photosynthesis and increased respiration. However, the two alpine taxa exhibited lower photosynthetic acclimation and higher respiratory acclimation than either lowland taxon. Moreover, higher leaf dry mass per unit area (LMA) and leaf nitrogen content per unit area (N<inf>area</inf>), and a smaller change in the nitrogen use efficiency of photosynthesis (PNUE) for lowland taxa indicated that these maintained higher homeostasis of photosynthesis than alpine taxa. The higher respiration rates produced more energy for repair and maintenance biomass, especially for higher photosynthetic activity for lowland taxa, which causes lower respiratory acclimation. Thus, the changes of ΔD<sup>2</sup>H for alpine spruces were larger than that for lowland spruces. These results indicate that long term heat stress negatively impact on the growth of Picea seedlings, and alpine taxa are more affected than low altitude ones by high temperature stress. Hence the altitude ranges of Picea taxa should be taken into account when predicting changes to carbon fluxes in warmer conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0123248
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2015


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