Miko U.F. Kirschbaum (2005). A modeling analysis of the interaction between forest age and forest responsiveness to increasing CO2 concentration. Tree Physiology 25: 953-963.

Summary. Typically, forests have rotations of 10-200 years. On that time scale, anthropogenic increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) and the associated changes in climate are expected to be substantial. These changes will, therefore, almost certainly affect the growth of presently established forest stands. Most studies on the effect on increasing [CO2] on tree growth have been made with young plants. However, the growth of trees within a forest stand varies with age. As a consequence, it is difficult to infer from the available experimental data how rising [CO2] will affect forest productivity over a full rotation.

In this study, various mechanisms that may account for the slowing of forest growth with age were introduced into the forest growth model CenW, to assess how these processes affect the modeled growth response to increasing [CO2]. Inclusion of allocation shifts with tree height, individual tree mortality, changing respiration load and nutrient dynamics or age-based reductions in photosynthetic capacity had only small effects on the response to increasing [CO2]. However, when photosynthesis of mature trees was decreased as a function of size, then the growth response to increasing [CO2] was reduced because, at the same age, trees were larger in elevated than ambient [CO2].

No simple and generally valid interactions between increasing [CO2] and forest age were identified because of the large number of interacting processes, all of which are incompletely understood. Important age x climate change interactions on productivity must occur in real forests and need to be considered to understand likely future trends. However, these interactions are complex and difficult to test. It is therefore not yet possible to confidently predict the modification of the CO2 response by forest age.

Keywords: CenW, climate change, growth, hydraulic constraints, mortality; pipe model, respiration, self-thinning.

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