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Increased CO2 uncouples growth from isoprene emission in an agriforest ecosystem


The emission of isoprene from the leaves of forest trees is a fundamental component of biosphere–atmosphere interactions, controlling many aspects of photochemistry in the lower atmosphere1,2,3. As almost all commercial agriforest species emit high levels of isoprene4, proliferation of agriforest plantations has significant potential to increase regional ozone pollution5,6,7 and enhance the lifetime of methane8, an important determinant of global climate. Here we show that growth of an intact Populus deltoides plantation under increased CO2 (800 µmol mol-1 and 1,200 µmol mol-1) reduced ecosystem isoprene production by 21% and 41%, while above-ground biomass accumulation was enhanced by 60% and 82%, respectively. Exposure to increased CO2 significantly reduced the cellular content of dimethylallyl diphosphate, the substrate for isoprene synthesis, in both leaves and leaf protoplasts. We identify intracellular metabolic competition for phosphoenolpyruvate as a possible control point in explaining the suppression of isoprene emission under increased CO2. Our results highlight the potential for uncoupling isoprene emission from biomass accumulation in an agriforest species, and show that negative air-quality effects of proliferating agriforests may be offset by increases in CO2.

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Figure 1: Net ecosystem isoprene production for Populus deltoides plantations.
Figure 2: Isoprene production and dimethylallyl diphosphate (DMAPP) content in leaves and protoplasts of P. deltoides.
Figure 3: NaHCO3 reduces isoprene production and DMAPP content in P. deltoides protoplasts.
Figure 4: Influence of two inhibitors of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase activity on isoprene production and net photosynthesis in excised leaves of P. deltoides.


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We thank R. Murthy for assistance at the Biosphere 2 Center, W. Kahtri for technical assistance, and C. Jenkins for supplying DCDP. This work was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy and the Packard Foundations to R.F., R.K.M. and K.L.G., an NSF fellowship to M.J.P., a Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences fellowship to T.N.R., and a Columbia University Biosphere 2 grant to R.K.M.

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Correspondence to Todd N. Rosenstiel.

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Rosenstiel, T., Potosnak, M., Griffin, K. et al. Increased CO2 uncouples growth from isoprene emission in an agriforest ecosystem. Nature 421, 256–259 (2003).

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