The Pressure Is On – Epiphyte Water-Relations Altered Under Elevated CO2

Sven Batke, Aidan Holohan, Roisin Hayden, Wieland Fricke, Amanda Sara Porter, Christiana Marie Evans-Fitz Gerald

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Vascular epiphytes are a major biomass component of forests across the globe and they contribute to 9% of global vascular plant diversity. To improve our understanding of the whole-plant response of epiphytes to future climate change, we investigated for the first time both individual and combined effects of elevated CO 2 (560 ppm) and light on the physiology and growth of two epiphyte species [Tillandsia brachycaulos (CAM) and Phlebodium aureum (C3)] grown for 272 days under controlled conditions. We found that under elevated CO 2 the difference in water loss between the light (650 μmol m -2s -1) and shade (130 μmol m -2s -1) treatment was strongly reduced. Stomatal conductance (g s) decreased under elevated CO 2, resulting in an approximate 40–45% reduction in water loss over a 24 h day/night period under high light and high CO 2 conditions. Under lower light conditions water loss was reduced by approximately 20% for the CAM bromeliad under elevated CO 2 and increased by approximately 126% for the C3 fern. Diurnal changes in leaf turgor and water loss rates correlated strong positively under ambient CO 2 (400 ppm) and high light conditions. Future predicted increases in atmospheric CO 2 are likely to alter plant water-relations in epiphytes, thus reducing the canopy cooling potential of epiphytes to future increases in temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1758
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Early online date27 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2018


  • climate change
  • ecophysiology
  • elevated CO2
  • light conditions
  • stomatal conductance
  • turgor
  • water-relations
  • Turgor
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Ecophysiology
  • Climate change
  • Elevated CO
  • Water-relations
  • Light conditions


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