A long-term free air ozone fumigation experiment was conducted to study changes in physiological ozone responses during tree ontogeny and exposure time in ozone sensitive and tolerant clones of European white birch (Betula pendula Roth), originated from south and central Finland. The trees were grown in soil in natural microclimatic conditions under ambient ozone (control) and 1.4-1.7 x ambient (elevated) ozone from May 1996 to October 2001, and were measured for stem and foliage growth, net photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, stomatal density, visible injuries, foliar starch content and bud formation. After 6 years of exposure, the magnitude of ozone-induced growth reductions in the sensitive clone was 12-48% (significant difference), levels similar or greater than those reported earlier for 2- and 3-year-old saplings undergoing shorter exposures. In the tolerant clone, growth of these larger trees was reduced by 1-38% (significant difference in stem volume), although the saplings had previously been unaffected. In both clones, ozone stress led to significantly reduced leaf-level net photosynthesis but significantly increased stomatal conductance rates during the late summer, resulting in a lower carbon gain for bud formation and the onset of visible foliar injuries. Increasing ozone sensitivity with duration of exposure was explained by a change in growth form (relatively reduced foliage mass), a lower photosynthesis to stomatal conductance ratio during the late summer, and deleterious carry-over effects arising from the reduced number of over-wintering buds.