The “Kluge-Lüttge Kammer”: A Preliminary Evaluation of an Enclosed, Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) Mesocosm that Allows Separation of Synchronized and Desynchronized Contributions of Plants to Whole System Gas Exchange
Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) is recognized as a photosynthetic adaptation of plants to arid habitats. This paper presents a proof-of-concept evaluation of partitioning net CO2 exchanges for soil and plants in an arid, exclusively CAM mesocosm, with soil depth and succulent plant biomass approximating that of natural Sonoran Desert ecosystems. We present the first evidence that an enclosed CAM-dominated soil and plant community exposed to a substantial day/night temperature difference (30/20 °C), exhibits a diel gas exchange pattern consisting of four consecutive phases with a distinct nocturnal CO2 uptake. These phases were modulated by plant assimilation and soil respiration processes. Day-time stomatal closure of the CAM cycle during phase III was used to eliminate aboveground photosynthetic assimilation and respiration and thereby to estimate belowground plant plus soil respiration. Rapid changes in temperature appeared to synchronize single plant gas exchange but individual plant gas exchange patterns were desynchronized at constant day/night temperatures (25 °C), masking the distinct mesocosm pattern. Overall, the mean carbon budget of this CAM model Sonoran Desert system was negative, releasing an average of 22.5 mmol CO2 m-2 d-1. The capacity for nocturnal CO2 assimilation in this exclusively CAM mesocosm was inadequate to recycle CO2 released by plant and soil respiration.