Elevated [CO2] and increased N supply reduce leaf disease and related photosynthetic impacts on Solidago rigida

Joachim Strengbom, Peter B Reich

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30 Scopus citations


To evaluate whether leaf spot disease and related effects on photosynthesis are influenced by increased nitrogen (N) input and elevated atmospheric CO 2 concentration ([CO2]), we examined disease incidence and photosynthetic rate of Solidago rigida grown in monoculture under ambient or elevated (560 μmol mol-1) [CO2] and ambient or elevated (+4 g N m-2 year-1) N conditions in a field experiment in Minnesota, USA. Disease incidence was lower in plots with either elevated [CO2] or enriched N (-57 and -37%, respectively) than in plots with ambient conditions. Elevated [CO2] had no significant effect on total plant biomass, or on photosynthetic rate, but reduced tissue%N by 13%. In contrast, N fertilization increased both biomass and total plant N by 70%, and as a consequence tissue%N was unaffected and photosynthetic rate was lower on N fertilized plants than on unfertilized plants. Regardless of treatment, photosynthetic rate was reduced on leaves with disease symptoms. On average across all treatments, asymptomatic leaf tissue on diseased leaves had 53% lower photosynthetic rate than non-diseased leaves, indicating that the negative effect from the disease extended beyond the visual lesion area. Our results show that, in this instance, indirect effects from elevated [CO2], i.e., lower disease incidence, had a stronger effect on realized photosynthetic rate than the direct effect of higher [CO2].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-525
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We would like to thank Dr. J.V. Groth for help with identiWcation of the leaf diseases and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This study was Wnancially supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (to J.S.) and by grants from the US National Science Foundation (LTER: 0080382 Biocom-plexity: 0322057) and Department of Energy Program for Ecological Research (Grant DE-FG02-96ER62291), and the University of Minnesota. The work presented in this paper conforms to the legal requirements of the country in which it was carried out, including those relating to conservation and welfare.


  • Carbon dioxide concentration
  • Global change
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant pathogens


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