Main content area

Reproductive allocation in plants as affected by elevated carbon dioxide and other environmental changes: a synthesis using meta-analysis and graphical vector analysis

Wang, Xianzhong, Taub, Daniel R., Jablonski, Leanne M.
Oecologia 2015 v.177 no.4 pp. 1075-1087
agroecosystems, biomass production, botanical composition, carbon dioxide, crop production, crops, drought, elevated atmospheric gases, environmental factors, herbaceous plants, life history, meta-analysis, nutrients, ozone, reproduction, soil, water stress
Reproduction is an important life history trait that strongly affects dynamics of plant populations. Although it has been well documented that elevated carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the atmosphere greatly enhances biomass production in plants, the overall effect of elevated CO₂on reproductive allocation (RA), i.e., the proportion of biomass allocated to reproductive structures, is little understood. We combined meta-analysis with graphical vector analysis to examine the overall effect of elevated CO₂on RA and how other environmental factors, such as low nutrients, drought and elevated atmospheric ozone (O₃), interacted with elevated CO₂in affecting RA in herbaceous plants. Averaged across all species of different functional groups and environmental conditions, elevated CO₂had little effect on RA (−0.9 %). RA in plants of different reproductive strategies and functional groups, however, differed in response to elevated CO₂. For example, RA in iteroparous wild species decreased by 8 %, while RA in iteroparous crops increased significantly (+14 %) at elevated CO₂. RA was unaffected by CO₂in plants grown with no stress or in low-nutrient soils. RA decreased at elevated CO₂and elevated O₃, but increased in response to elevated CO₂in drought-stressed plants, suggesting that elevated CO₂could ameliorate the adverse effect of drought on crop production to some extent. Our results demonstrate that elevated CO₂and other global environmental changes have the potential to greatly alter plant community composition through differential effects on RA of different plant species and thus affect the dynamics of natural and agricultural ecosystems in the future.