Date of this Version
Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations may have a profound effect on the structure and function of plant communities. A previously grazed, central Texas grassland was exposed to a 200-µmol mol-1 to 550 µmol mol-1 CO2 gradient from March to mid-December in 1998 and 1999 using two, 60-m long, polyethylene-covered chambers built directly onto the site. One chamber was operated at subambient CO2 concentrations (200-360 µmol mol-1 daytime) and the other was regulated at superambient concentrations (360-550 µmol mol-1). Continuous CO2 gradients were maintained in each chamber by photosynthesis during the day and respiration at night. Net ecosystem CO2 flux and end-of-year biomass were measured in each of 10, 5-m long sections in each chamber. Net CO2 fluxes were maximal in late May (c. day 150) in 1998 and in late August in 1999 (c. day 240). In both years, fluxes were near zero and similar in both chambers at the beginning and end of the growing season. Average daily CO2 flux in 1998 was 13 g CO2 m-2 day-1 in the subambient chamber and 20 g CO2 m-2 day-1 in the superambient chamber; comparable averages were 15 and 26 g CO2 m-2 day-1 in 1999. Flux was positively and linearly correlated with end-of-year above-ground biomass but flux was not linearly correlated with CO2 concentration; a finding likely to be explained by inherent differences in vegetation. Because C3 plants were the dominant functional group, we adjusted average daily flux in each section by dividing the flux by the average percentage C3 cover. Adjusted fluxes were better correlated with CO2 concentration, although scatter remained. Our results indicate that after accounting for vegetation differences, CO2 flux increased linearly with CO2 concentration. This trend was more evident at subambient than superambient CO2 concentrations.