Effects of high CO2 levels on dynamic photosynthesis: carbon gain, mechanisms, and environmental interactions

Hajime Tomimatsu, Yanhong Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the photosynthetic responses of terrestrial plants to environments with high levels of CO2 is essential to address the ecological effects of elevated atmospheric CO2. Most photosynthetic models used for global carbon issues are based on steady-state photosynthesis, whereby photosynthesis is measured under constant environmental conditions; however, terrestrial plant photosynthesis under natural conditions is highly dynamic, and photosynthetic rates change in response to rapid changes in environmental factors. To predict future contributions of photosynthesis to the global carbon cycle, it is necessary to understand the dynamic nature of photosynthesis in relation to high CO2 levels. In this review, we summarize the current body of knowledge on the photosynthetic response to changes in light intensity under experimentally elevated CO2 conditions. We found that short-term exposure to high CO2 enhances photosynthetic rate, reduces photosynthetic induction time, and reduces post-illumination CO2 burst, resulting in increased leaf carbon gain during dynamic photosynthesis. However, long-term exposure to high CO2 during plant growth has varying effects on dynamic photosynthesis. High levels of CO2 increase the carbon gain in photosynthetic induction in some species, but have no significant effects in other species. Some studies have shown that high CO2 levels reduce the biochemical limitation on RuBP regeneration and Rubisco activation during photosynthetic induction, whereas the effects of high levels of CO2 on stomatal conductance differ among species. Few studies have examined the influence of environmental factors on effects of high levels of CO2 on dynamic photosynthesis. We identified several knowledge gaps that should be addressed to aid future predictions of photosynthesis in high-CO2 environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-377
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Plant Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May 1


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Dynamic photosynthesis
  • Elevated CO
  • Fluctuating irradiance
  • Lightfleck
  • Sunfleck


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