Plant growth chamber design for subambient pCO2 and δ13C studies
Rationale Subambient p CO 2 has persisted across the major Phanerozoic ice ages, including the entire late Cenozoic ( ca 30 Ma to present). Stable isotope analysis of plant‐derived organic matter is used to infer changes in p CO 2 and climate in the geologic past, but a growth chamber that can precisely control environmental conditions, including p CO 2 and δ 13 C value of CO 2 ( δ 13 C CO2 ) at subambient p CO 2 , is lacking. Methods We designed and built five identical chambers specifically for plant growth under stable subambient p CO 2 ( ca 100 to 400 ppm) and δ 13 C CO2 conditions. We tested the p CO 2 and δ 13 C CO2 stability of the chambers both with and without plants, across two 12‐hour daytime experiments and two extended 9‐day experiments. We also compared the temperature and relative humidity conditions among the chambers. Results The average δ 13 C CO2 value within the five chambers ranged from −18.76 to −19.10‰; the standard deviation never exceeded 0.14‰ across any experiment. This represents better δ 13 C CO2 stability than that achieved by all previous chamber designs, including superambient p CO 2 chambers. Every p CO 2 measurement ( n = 1225) was within 5% of mean chamber values. The temperature and relative humidity conditions differed by no more than 0.4°C and 1.6%, respectively, across all chambers within each growth experiment. Conclusions This growth chamber design extends the range of p CO 2 conditions for which plants can be grown for δ 13 C analysis of their tissues at subambient levels. This new capability allows for careful isolation of environmental effects on plant 13 C discrimination across the entire range of p CO 2 experienced by terrestrial land plants.
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