Convergent acclimation of leaf photosynthesis and respiration to prevailing ambient temperatures under current and warmer climates in Eucalyptus tereticornis

Michael J. Aspinwall, John E. Drake, Courtney Campany, Angelica Vårhammar, Oula Ghannoum, David T. Tissue, Peter B. Reich, Mark G. Tjoelker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Understanding physiological acclimation of photosynthesis and respiration is important in elucidating the metabolic performance of trees in a changing climate. Does physiological acclimation to climate warming mirror acclimation to seasonal temperature changes? We grew Eucalyptus tereticornis trees in the field for 14 months inside 9-m tall whole-tree chambers tracking ambient air temperature (Tair ) or ambient Tair  + 3°C (i.e. 'warmed'). We measured light- and CO2 -saturated net photosynthesis (Amax ) and night-time dark respiration (R) each month at 25°C to quantify acclimation. Tree growth was measured, and leaf nitrogen (N) and total nonstructural carbohydrate (TNC) concentrations were determined to investigate mechanisms of acclimation. Warming reduced Amax and R measured at 25°C compared to ambient-grown trees. Both traits also declined as mean daily Tair increased, and did so in a similar way across temperature treatments. Amax and R (at 25°C) both increased as TNC concentrations increased seasonally; these relationships appeared to arise from source-sink imbalances, suggesting potential substrate regulation of thermal acclimation. We found that photosynthesis and respiration each acclimated equivalently to experimental warming and seasonal temperature change of a similar magnitude, reflecting a common, nearly homeostatic constraint on leaf carbon exchange that will be important in governing tree responses to climate warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-367
Number of pages14
JournalThe New phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Sune Linder and the Swedish University for Agricultural Science for providing the whole-tree chambers. This study was supported by the Australian Research Council (Discovery, DP140103415) and Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University. We thank Craig Barton and Burhan Amiji for maintaining the experiment, and Rory O'Grady and Lanila Demarta for assistance with laboratory work. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2016 New Phytologist Trust.


  • Eucalyptus
  • acclimation
  • carbohydrates
  • climate change
  • photosynthesis
  • respiration
  • temperature
  • warming


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