iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Open top chamber and free air CO2 enrichment - approaches to investigate tree responses to elevated CO2

K Macháčová   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 3, Issue 4, Pages 102-105 (2010)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0544-003
Published: Jul 15, 2010 - Copyright © 2010 SISEF

Review Papers

Collection/Special Issue: NFZ Summer School 2009 - Birmensdorf (Switzerland)
Long-term ecosystem research: understanding the present to shape the future
Guest Editors: Marcus Schaub (WSL, Switzerland)

Open Top Chamber (OTC) and Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) are currently the prevailing approaches to study plant responses to elevated carbon dioxide. Method-inherent characteristics of either method distinctively influence results. Advantages and disadvantages of both methods are reviewed here, leading to the conclusion that Open Top Chambers seem to be more suitable for investigating the physiological responses of single trees to high levels of carbon dioxide, while Free Air CO2 Enrichment systems are more useful for studying the effects of elevated carbon dioxide on whole forest ecosystems since they have a large diameter, thus allowing to work with larger trees. Free Air CO2 Enrichment systems also provide a natural microclimate, thus leading to ecologically more meaningful results. Methods involving Screen-Aided CO2 Control (SACC) are proposed as a compromise eliminating disadvantages and combining advantages of both the Open Top Chamber and the Free Air CO2 Enrichment methods. Considering the wide variety of experiments under a range of additional environmental factors it is difficult to identify a typical bias that may be inherent in the data generated by the Open Top Chamber and the Free Air CO2 Enrichment. Meta analysis of large number of past studies revealed that Open Top Chamber experiments produce a stronger growth enhancing effect of carbon dioxide than Free Air CO2 Enrichment experiments. Future comparative discussion of Open Top Chamber and Free Air CO2 Enrichment data needs to take into account this potential bias to yield biologically meaningful interpretations.


Open Top Chamber (OTC), Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE), Tree response to elevated CO2, Screen-Aided CO2 Control, Chamber effect, Experimental bias, Elevated CO2 treatment

Authors’ address

K Macháčová
Chair of Tree Physiology, Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Georges-Köhler Allee, Geb. 53/54, D-79085 Freiburg (Germany)

Corresponding author


Macháčová K (2010). Open top chamber and free air CO2 enrichment - approaches to investigate tree responses to elevated CO2. iForest 3: 102-105. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0544-003

Paper history

Received: May 25, 2010
Accepted: May 31, 2010

First online: Jul 15, 2010
Publication Date: Jul 15, 2010
Publication Time: 1.50 months

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