Modelling plant responses to elevated CO2: how important is leaf area index?

F. Ewert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims The problem of increasing CO2 concentration [CO2] and associated climate change has [CO2] on plants. While variation in growth and productivity is generated much interest in modelling effects of closely related to the amount of intercepted radiation, largely determined by leaf area index (LAI), effects of elevated [CO2] on growth are primarily via stimulation of leaf photosynthesis. Variability in LAI depends on climatic and growing conditions including [CO2] concentration and can be high, as is known for agricultural crops which are specifically emphasized in this report. However, modelling photosynthesis has received much attention and photosynthesis is often represented inadequately detailed in plant productivity models. Less emphasis has been placed on the modelling of leaf area dynamics, and relationships between plant growth, elevated [CO2] and LAI are not well understood. This Botanical Briefing aims at clarifying the relative importance of LAI for canopy assimilation and growth in biomass under conditions of rising [CO2] and discusses related implications for process-based modelling. Model A simulation exercise performed for a wheat crop demonstrates recent experimental findings about canopy assimilation as affected by LAI and elevation of [CO2]. While canopy assimilation largely increases with LAI below canopy light saturation, effects on canopy assimilation of [CO2] elevation are less pronounced and tend to decline as LAI increases. Results from selected model-testing studies indicate that simulation of LAI is often critical and forms an important source of uncertainty in plant productivity models, particularly under conditions of limited resource supply. Conclusions Progress in estimating plant growth and productivity under rising [CO2] is unlikely to be achieved without improving the modelling of LAI. This will depend on better understanding of the processes of substrate allocation, leaf area development and senescence, and the role of LAI in controlling plant adaptation to environmental changes. (C) 2004 Annals of Botany Company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-627
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2004
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • radiation use efficiency
  • crop simulation-models
  • rising atmospheric co2
  • light-use efficiency
  • canopy photosynthesis
  • spring wheat
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • growth-response
  • carbon-dioxide
  • climate-change

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Modelling plant responses to elevated CO2: how important is leaf area index?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this