Coupling of respiration, nitrogen, and sugars underlies convergent temperature acclimation in Pinus banksiana across wide-ranging sites and populations

Mark G. Tjoelker, Jacek Oleksyn, Peter B Reich, Roma Zytkowiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Patterns and mechanisms of short-term temperature acclimation and long-term climatic adaptation of respiration among intraspecific populations are poorly understood, but both are potentially important in constraining respiratory carbon flux to climate warming across large geographic scales, as well as influencing the metabolic fitness of populations. Herein we report on leaf dark respiration of 33-year-old trees of jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.) grown in three contrasting North American common gardens (0.9, 4.6, and 7.9 °C, mean annual temperature) comprised of identical populations of wide-ranging geographic origins. We tested whether respiration rates in this evergreen conifer acclimate to prevailing ambient air temperatures and differ among populations. At each of the common gardens, observed population differences in respiration rates measured at a standard temperature (20 °C) were comparatively small and largely unrelated to climate of seed-source origin. In contrast, respiration in all populations exhibited seasonal acclimation at all sites. Specific respiration rates at 20 °C inversely tracked seasonal variation in ambient air temperature, increasing with cooler temperatures in fall and declining with warmer temperatures in spring and summer. Such responses were similar among populations and sites, thus providing a general predictive equation regarding temperature acclimation of respiration for the species. Temperature acclimation was associated with variation in nitrogen (N) and soluble carbohydrate concentrations, supporting a joint enzyme and substrate-based model of respiratory acclimation. Regression analyses revealed convergent relationships between respiration and the combination of needle N and soluble carbohydrate concentrations and between N-based respiration (RN, μ mol mol N-1 s-1) and soluble carbohydrate concentrations, providing evidence for general predictive relationships across geographically diverse populations, seasons, and sites. Overall, these findings demonstrate that seasonal acclimation of respiration modulates rates of foliar respiratory carbon flux in a widely distributed evergreen species, and does so in a predictable way. Genetic differences in specific respiration rate appear less important than temperature acclimation in downregulating respiratory carbon fluxes with climate warming across wide-ranging sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-797
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Acclimation
  • Adaptation
  • Biogeography
  • Carbohydrates
  • Climate change
  • Common garden
  • Dark respiration
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Jackpine (Pinus banksiana)
  • Nitrogen

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