Leaf respiration under drought

The Earth's climate and ecosystem functioning is sensitive to plant respiration. Drought and temperature both influence respiration, yet we are unable to predict how these factors will impact on future rates of respiration. In recent years, we and collaborating labs combined laboratory and field (in Australia and Nth America) experiments to establish whether there are systematic differences among species in drought-mediated changes in respiration, and how drought impacts on the temperature dependence of respiration. 

While the projects are largely complete, it is anticipated that future student projects will build on the results obtained from this project - please contact Owen Atkin if you have an interest in projects in this area. 

Some of the results have been published or are in press (see below), with additional studies to be submitted for publication in future months. 


  • Rodríguez-Calcerrada, J., Li, M., López, R., Javier Cano, F., Oleksyn, F., Atkin. O.K., Pita, P., Aranda, I., Gil, L. (2016). Drought-induced shoot dieback starts at massive root xylem embolism and variable depletion of non-structural carbohydrates in seedlings of two tree species.  New Phytologist.  Accepted July 14 2016.
  • Gauthier, P.P.G., Crous, K.Y., Ayub, G., Duan, H., Weerasinghe, K.W.L. K. Ellsworth, D.S., Tissue, D.T., Evans J.R., and Atkin O.K. (2014).  Drought increases heat tolerance of leaf respiration in Eucalyptus globulus saplings grown under ambient and elevated atmospheric [CO2] and temperature. Journal of Experimental Botany 65: 6471–6485
  • Crous, K.Y., Zaragoza-Castells, J., Ellsworth, D., Duursma, R.A., Löw, M., Tissue, D.T., and Atkin, O.K. (2012).  Light inhibition of leaf respiration in field-grown Eucalyptus saligna in whole-tree chambers under elevated atmospheric CO2 and summer drought. Plant Cell and Environment 35: 966-976.
  • Ayub, G., Smith, R., Tissue, D.T. and Atkin, O.K.  (2011) Impacts of drought on leaf respiration in darkness and in the light in Eucalyptus saligna exposed to industrial-age atmospheric CO2 and growth temperature.  New Phytologist 190: 1003–1018.
  • Crous, K.Y., Zaragoza-Castells, J., Löw, M., Ellsworth, D., Tissue, D.T., Tjoelker, M.G., Barton, C.V.M., Gimeno, T.E., and Atkin, O.K. (2011) Seasonal acclimation of leaf respiration in Eucalyptus saligna trees: impacts of elevated atmospheric CO2 and summer drought.  Global Change Biology 17: 1560–1576
  • Rodríguez-Calcerrada, J., Atkin, O.K., Robson, M., Zaragoza-Castells, J., Gil, L. and Aranda, I. (2010). Thermal acclimation of leaf dark respiration of beech seedlings experiencing summer drought in high and low light environments.Tree Physiology 30:214-224
  • Gimeno, T.E., Sommerville, K., Valladares, F. and Atkin, O.K. (2010). Homeostasis of respiration under drought and its important consequences for foliar carbon balance in a drier climate: insights from two contrasting Acacia species. Functional Plant Biology 37: 323-333.


Some of these studies were conducted in collaboration with: Dr Paul Gauthier (now at Princeton University, USA), Professor John Evans (ANU), Professor Mark Tjoelker (UWS, Richmond, Australia), Professor Stephen Sitch (Exeter, UK). This project was funded by an ARC Discovery Grant (DP1093759).