Elevated CO2 mitigates the adverse effects of drought on daytime net ecosystem CO2 exchange and photosynthesis in a Florida scrub-oak ecosystem
Drought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate. In order to understand the potential effect of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration (C a) on ecosystems, it is essential to determine the combined effects of drought and elevated C a (EC) under field conditions. A severe drought occurred in Central Florida in 1998 when precipitation was 88 % less than the average between 1984 and 2002. We determined daytime net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) before, during, and after the drought in the Florida scrub-oak ecosystem exposed to doubled C a in open-top chamber since May 1996. We measured diurnal leaf net photosynthetic rate (P N) of Quercus myrtifolia Willd, the dominant species, during and after the drought. Drought caused a midday depression in NEE and P N at ambient CO2 concentration (AC) and EC. EC mitigated the midday depression in NEE by about 60 % compared to AC and the effect of EC on leaf P N was similar to its effect on NEE. Growth in EC lowered the sensitivity of NEE to air vapor pressure deficit under drought. Thus EC would help the scrub-oak ecosystem to survive the consequences of the effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on climate change, including increased frequency of drought, while simultaneously sequestering more anthropogenic carbon.