A principle response of C3 plants to increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (CO2) is to reduce transpirational water loss by decreasing stomatal conductance (gs) and simultaneously increase assimilation rates. Via this adaptation, vegetation has the ability to alter hydrology and climate. Therefore, it is important to determine the adaptation of vegetation to the expected anthropogenic rise in CO2. Short-term stomatal opening-closing responses of vegetation to increasing CO2 are described by free-air carbon enrichments growth experiments, and evolutionary adaptations are known from the geological record. However, to date the effects of decadal to centennial CO2 perturbations on stomatal conductance are still largely unknown. Here we reconstruct a 34% (±12%) reduction in maximum stomatal conductance (gsmax) per 100 ppm CO2 increase as a result of the adaptation in stomatal density (D) and pore size at maximal stomatal opening (amax) of nine common species from Florida over the past 150 y. The species-specific g smax values are determined by different evolutionary development, whereby the angiosperms sampled generally have numerous small stomata and high gsmax, and the conifers and fern have few large stomata and lower gsmax. Although angiosperms and conifers use different D and a max adaptation strategies, our data show a coherent response in gsmax to CO2 rise of the past century. Understanding these adaptations of C3 plants to rising CO2 after decadal to centennial environmental changes is essential for quantification of plant physiological forcing at time-scales relevant for global warming, and they are likely to continue until the limits of their phenotypic plasticity are reached
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