Internal Recycling of Respired CO2 May Be Important for Plant Functioning under Changing Climate Regimes

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Plant Signaling & Behavior




Recent studies have provided evidence of a large flux of root-respired CO2 in the transpiration stream of trees. In our study, we investigated the potential impact of this internal CO2 transport on aboveground carbon assimilation and CO2 efflux. To trace the transport of root-respired CO2, we infused a 13C label at the stem base of field-grown Populus deltoides Bartr. ex. Marsh trees. The13C label was transported to the top of the stem and throughout the crown via the transpiration stream. Up to 17% of the 13C label was assimilated by chlorophyll-containing tissues. Our results provide evidence of a mechanism for recycling respired CO2 within trees. Such a mechanism may have important implications for how plants cope with predicted increases in intensity and frequency of droughts. Here, we speculate on the potential significance of this recycling mechanism within the context of plant responses to climate change and plants currently inhabiting arid environments.