The dependence of respiration on photosynthetic substrate supply and temperature: Integrating leaf, soil and ecosystem measurements

Iain P. Hartley, Anna F. Armstrong, Ramesh Murthy, Greg Barron-Gafford, Phil Ineson, Owen K. Atkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Interactions between photosynthetic substrate supply and temperature in determining the rate of three respiration components (leaf, belowground and ecosystem respiration) were investigated within three environmentally controlled, Populus deltoides forest bays at Biosphere 2, Arizona. Over 2 months, the atmospheric CO2 concentration and air temperature were manipulated to test the following hypotheses: (1) the responses of the three respiration components to changes in the rate of photosynthesis would differ both in speed and magnitude; (2) the temperature sensitivity of leaf and belowground respiration would increase in response to a rise in substrate availability; and, (3) at the ecosystem level, the ratio of respiration to photosynthesis would be conserved despite week-to-week changes in temperature. All three respiration rates responded to the CO2 concentration-induced changes in photosynthesis. However, the proportional change in the rate of leaf respiration was more than twice that of belowground respiration and, when photosynthesis was reduced, was also more rapid. The results suggest that aboveground respiration plays a key role in the overall response of ecosystem respiration to short-term changes in canopy photosynthesis. The short-term temperature sensitivity of leaf respiration, measured within a single night, was found to be affected more by developmental conditions than photosynthetic substrate availability, as the Q10 was lower in leaves that developed at high CO2, irrespective of substrate availability. However, the temperature sensitivity of belowground respiration, calculated between periods of differing air temperature, appeared to be positively correlated with photosynthetic substrate availability. At the ecosystem level, respiration and photosynthesis were positively correlated but the relationship was affected by temperature; for a given rate of daytime photosynthesis, the rate of respiration the following night was greater at 25 than 20°C. This result suggests that net ecosystem exchange did not acclimate to temperature changes lasting up to 3 weeks. Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that the three respiration terms differ in their dependence on photosynthesis and that, short- and medium-term changes in temperature may affect net carbon storage in terrestrial ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1954-1968
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Belowground respiration
  • Ecosystem respiration
  • Ecosystem warming
  • Elevated CO
  • Leaf respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Populus deltoides
  • Q
  • Soil respiration
  • Substrate availability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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