Plant respiration and climate change

24th New Phytologist Symposium

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24th New Phytologist Symposium meeting report: Plant respiration in a changing world by Atkin, Millar and Turnbull.

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Symposium Scope

Climate-mediated changes in plant respiration are now accepted as an important component of the biosphere’s response to global climate change. Each year, whilst producing the energy and carbon intermediates necessary for biosynthesis and cellular maintenance, plant respiration releases ten times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than does the burning of fossil fuels. Variations in rates of plant respiration (e.g. due to climate and/or genotypic differences in energy demand) thus have the potential to affect the functioning of individual plants and ecosystems, and the extent to which atmospheric CO2 will be sequestered by the terrestrial Biosphere. In recent years, much has been learnt about the importance of plant respiration for ecosystem and Earth system functioning, the underlying mechanisms responsible for variability in rates of respiration, and the roles respiration plays in helping plants survive stressful environments. There has also been growing interest in understanding the extent to which scaling relationships can be used to predict variations in plant respiration. However, compared to the relatively comprehensive understanding of photosynthetic metabolism, we still lack basic information on key determinants of respiration in photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic plant organs. Moreover, our ability to predict the scale and magnitude of future rates of respiration remains limited. Dealing with such issues requires a dialogue between researchers working over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. The goal of this meeting will be to act as a catalyst for future cross-discipline research by bringing together plant biologists and modellers working on respiration at the molecular, cellular, whole organism and ecosystem levels. In doing so, the meeting will provide an opportunity to significantly improve our understanding of this key metabolic process.