Short-term acclimation to warmer temperatures accelerates leaf carbon exchange processes across plant types

Nicholas G. Smith, Jeffrey S. Dukes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


While temperature responses of photosynthesis and plant respiration are known to acclimate over time in many species, few studies have been designed to directly compare process-level differences in acclimation capacity among plant types. We assessed short-term (7 day) temperature acclimation of the maximum rate of Rubisco carboxylation (Vcmax), the maximum rate of electron transport (Jmax), the maximum rate of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase carboxylation (Vpmax), and foliar dark respiration (Rd) in 22 plant species that varied in lifespan (annual and perennial), photosynthetic pathway (C3 and C4), and climate of origin (tropical and nontropical) grown under fertilized, well-watered conditions. In general, acclimation to warmer temperatures increased the rate of each process. The relative increase in different photosynthetic processes varied by plant type, with C3 species tending to preferentially accelerate CO2-limited photosynthetic processes and respiration and C4 species tending to preferentially accelerate light-limited photosynthetic processes under warmer conditions. Rd acclimation to warmer temperatures caused a reduction in temperature sensitivity that resulted in slower rates at high leaf temperatures. Rd acclimation was similar across plant types. These results suggest that temperature acclimation of the biochemical processes that underlie plant carbon exchange is common across different plant types, but that acclimation to warmer temperatures tends to have a relatively greater positive effect on the processes most limiting to carbon assimilation, which differ by plant type. The acclimation responses observed here suggest that warmer conditions should lead to increased rates of carbon assimilation when water and nutrients are not limiting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4840-4853
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • J
  • V
  • climate change
  • photosynthesis
  • plant physiology
  • respiration
  • warming


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