Skip to main content Accessibility help

Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Potential Impacts on the Growth and Toxicity of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

  • L. H. Ziska (a1), R. C. Sicher (a1), K. George (a2) and J. E. Mohan (a1)

Because of its ability to induce contact dermatitis, the establishment and spread of poison ivy is recognized as a significant public health concern. In the current study, we quantified potential changes in the biomass and urushiol content of poison ivy as a function of incremental changes in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (CO2). We also examined the rate of new leaf development following leaf removal to simulate responses to herbivory as functions of both CO2 and plant size. The experimental CO2 values (300, 400, 500. and 600 µmol mol−1) corresponded approximately to the concentration that existed during the middle of the 20th century, the current concentration and near and long-term projections for this century (2050 and 2090), respectively. Over 250 d, increasing CO2 resulted in significant increases in leaf area, leaf and stem weight, and rhizome length relative to the 300 µmol mol−1 baseline with the greatest relative increase occurring from 300 to 400 µmol mol−1. There was a nonsignificant (P = 0.18) increase in urushiol concentration in response to CO2; however, because of the stimulatory effect of CO2 on leaf biomass, the amount of urushiol produced per plant increased significantly for all CO2 above the 300 µmol mol−1 baseline. Significant increases in the rate of leaf development following leaf removal were also observed with increasing CO2. Overall, these data confirm earlier, field-based reports on the CO2 sensitivity of poison ivy but emphasize its ability to respond to even small (∼ 100 µmol mol−1) changes in CO2 above the mid-20th century carbon dioxide baseline and suggest that its rate of spread, its ability to recover from herbivory, and its production of urushiol, may be enhanced in a future, higher CO2 environment.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author's E-mail:
Hide All
Baer, H., Hooton, M., Fales, H., Wu, A., and Schaub, F. 1980. Catecholic and other constituents of the leaves of Toxicodendron radicans and variation of urushiol concentration within one plant. Phytochemistry. 19:799802.
Belote, R. T., Weltzin, J. F., and Norby, R. J. 2004. Response of an understory plant community to elevated CO2 depends on differential responses of dominant invasive species and is mediated by soil water availability. New Phytol. 161:827835.
Bryant, J. P., Chapin, F. S., and Klein, D. R. 1983. Carbon/nutrient balance of boreal plants in relation to vertebrate herbivory. Oikos. 40:357368.
El-Sohly, M. A., Adawadkar, P. D., Ma, C-Y., and Turner, C. E. 1982. Separation and characterization of poison ivy and poison oak urushiol components. J. Nat. Prod. 45:532538.
Granados, J. and Korner, C. 2002. In deep shade, elevated CO2 increases the vigor of tropical climbing plants. Glob. Change Biol. 8:11091117.
[IPCC] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Houghton, J.T., Meiro-Filho, L.G., Callander, B.A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A., Maskell, K., eds. Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press. 572.
Krenzelok, E. and Provost, F. 1995. The ten most common plant exposures reported to poison information centers in the United States. J. Nat. Toxins. 4:195202.
Mayeux, H. S., Johnson, H. B., Polley, H. W., Dumesnil, M. J., and Spanel, G. A. 1993. A controlled environment chamber for growing plants across a sub-ambient carbon dioxide gradient. Funct. Ecol. 7:125133.
Mohan, J. E., Ziska, L. H., Schlesinger, W. H., Thomas, R. B., Sicher, R. C., George, K., and Clark, J. S. 2006. Biomass and toxicity responses of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) to elevated atmospheric CO2 . Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 103:90869089.
Patz, J. A. and Kovats, R. S. 2002. Hot spots in climate change and human health. Br. Med J. 325:10941098.
Pederson, B. A. and Wallis, B. S. 2004. Effects of white-tailed deer herbivory on forest gap dynamics in a wildlife preserve, Pennsylvania, USA. Nat. Areas J. 24:8194.
Phillips, O. L., Martinez, R. V., and Arroyo, L. et al. 2002. Increasing dominance of large lianas in Amazonian forests. Nature, 418:770774.
Robinson, J. M. 1984. Photosynthetic carbon metabolism in leaves and isolated chloroplasts from spinach plants grown under short and intermediate photosynthetic periods. Plant Physiol. 75:397409.
Sage, R. F. 1995. Was low atmospheric CO2 during the Pleistocene a limiting factor for the origin of agriculture? Glob Change Biol. 1:95106.
Sasek, T. W. and Strain, B. R. 1990. Implications of atmospheric CO2 enrichment and climatic change for the geographical distribution of two introduced vines in the USA. Clim. Change, 16:3151.
Schimel, D., Alves, D., and Enting, I. et al. 1990. Radiative forcing of climate change. Pages 2346. in Houghton, J.T., Meira-Filho, L.G., Callander, B.A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A., Maskell, K. eds. Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change. Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press.
Stitt, M. 1991. Rising CO2 levels and their potential significance for carbon flow in photosynthetic cells. Plant Cell Environ. 14:741762.
Tanner, T. 2000. Rhus (toxicodendron) dermatitis. Prim. Care. 27:493501.
Tsugawa, H., Tange, M., and Otsuji, J. 1980. Observations on branching and number of leaves in seedlings of Kudzu vines (Pueraria lobata Ohwi). Sci. Rep. Fac. Agric. Kobe Univ. 14:914.
Ziska, L. H. 2003a. Climate change, plant biology and public health. World Res. Rev. 15:271288.
Ziska, L. H. 2003b. Evaluation of the growth response of six invasive species to past, present and future atmospheric carbon dioxide. J Exp. Bot. 381:395404.
Ziska, L. H. and Runion, G. B. 2006. Future weed, pest and disease problems for plants. Pages 261290. in Newton, P.C.D., Carran, R.A., Edwards, G.R., Niklaus, P.A. eds. Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate. Boca Raton, FL CRC.
Zotz, G., Cueni, N., and Korner, C. 2006. In situ growth stimulation of a temperate zone liana (Hedera heliz) in elevated CO2 . Funct. Ecol. 20:763769.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Weed Science
  • ISSN: 0043-1745
  • EISSN: 1550-2759
  • URL: /core/journals/weed-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed