Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.

Terrestrial ecosystems gain carbon through photosynthesis and lose it mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). The extent to which the biosphere can act as a buffer against rising atmospheric CO2 concentration in global climate change projections remains uncertain at the present stage(1-4). Biogeochemical theory predicts that soil nitrogen (N) scarcity may limit natural ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentration, diminishing the CO2-fertilization effect on terrestrial plant productivity in unmanaged ecosystems(3-7). Recent models have incorporated such carbon-nitrogen interactions and suggest that anthropogenic N sources could help sustain the future CO2-fertilization effect(8,9). However, conclusive demonstration that added N enhances plant productivity in response to CO2-fertilization in natural ecosystems remains elusive. Here we manipulated atmospheric CO2 concentration and soil N availability in a herbaceous brackish wetland where plant community composition is dominated by a C-3 sedge and C-4 grasses, and is capable of responding rapidly to environmental change(10). We found that N addition enhanced the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity in the first year of a multi-year experiment, indicating N-limitation of the CO2 response. But we also found that N addition strongly promotes the encroachment of C-4 plant species that respond less strongly to elevated CO2 concentrations. Overall, we found that the observed shift in the plant community composition ultimately suppresses the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity by the third and fourth years. Although extensive research has shown that global change factors such as elevated CO2 concentrations and N pollution affect plant species differently(11-13), and that they may drive plant community changes(14-17), we demonstrate that plant community shifts can act as a feedback effect that alters the whole ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentrations. Moreover, we suggest that trade-offs between the abilities of plant taxa to respond positively to different perturbations may constrain natural ecosystem response to global change.

Main Author: Langley, J.
Other Authors: Megonigal, J.
Language: English
Published: 2010
Online Access: http://ezproxy.villanova.edu/login?url=https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:177978
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dc_source_str_mv Nature 466, July 2010, 96–99.
author Langley, J.
author_facet_str_mv Langley, J.
Megonigal, J.
author_or_contributor_facet_str_mv Langley, J.
Megonigal, J.
author_s Langley, J.
spellingShingle Langley, J.
Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
author-letter Langley, J.
author_sort_str Langley, J.
author2 Megonigal, J.
author2Str Megonigal, J.
dc_title_str Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title_short Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title_full Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title_fullStr Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title_full_unstemmed Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
collection_title_sort_str ecosystem response to elevated co2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
title_sort ecosystem response to elevated co2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
description Terrestrial ecosystems gain carbon through photosynthesis and lose it mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). The extent to which the biosphere can act as a buffer against rising atmospheric CO2 concentration in global climate change projections remains uncertain at the present stage(1-4). Biogeochemical theory predicts that soil nitrogen (N) scarcity may limit natural ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentration, diminishing the CO2-fertilization effect on terrestrial plant productivity in unmanaged ecosystems(3-7). Recent models have incorporated such carbon-nitrogen interactions and suggest that anthropogenic N sources could help sustain the future CO2-fertilization effect(8,9). However, conclusive demonstration that added N enhances plant productivity in response to CO2-fertilization in natural ecosystems remains elusive. Here we manipulated atmospheric CO2 concentration and soil N availability in a herbaceous brackish wetland where plant community composition is dominated by a C-3 sedge and C-4 grasses, and is capable of responding rapidly to environmental change(10). We found that N addition enhanced the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity in the first year of a multi-year experiment, indicating N-limitation of the CO2 response. But we also found that N addition strongly promotes the encroachment of C-4 plant species that respond less strongly to elevated CO2 concentrations. Overall, we found that the observed shift in the plant community composition ultimately suppresses the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity by the third and fourth years. Although extensive research has shown that global change factors such as elevated CO2 concentrations and N pollution affect plant species differently(11-13), and that they may drive plant community changes(14-17), we demonstrate that plant community shifts can act as a feedback effect that alters the whole ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentrations. Moreover, we suggest that trade-offs between the abilities of plant taxa to respond positively to different perturbations may constrain natural ecosystem response to global change.
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dc.title Ecosystem response to elevated CO2 levels limited by nitrogen-induced plant species shift.
dc.creator Langley, J.
Megonigal, J.
dc.description Terrestrial ecosystems gain carbon through photosynthesis and lose it mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). The extent to which the biosphere can act as a buffer against rising atmospheric CO2 concentration in global climate change projections remains uncertain at the present stage(1-4). Biogeochemical theory predicts that soil nitrogen (N) scarcity may limit natural ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentration, diminishing the CO2-fertilization effect on terrestrial plant productivity in unmanaged ecosystems(3-7). Recent models have incorporated such carbon-nitrogen interactions and suggest that anthropogenic N sources could help sustain the future CO2-fertilization effect(8,9). However, conclusive demonstration that added N enhances plant productivity in response to CO2-fertilization in natural ecosystems remains elusive. Here we manipulated atmospheric CO2 concentration and soil N availability in a herbaceous brackish wetland where plant community composition is dominated by a C-3 sedge and C-4 grasses, and is capable of responding rapidly to environmental change(10). We found that N addition enhanced the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity in the first year of a multi-year experiment, indicating N-limitation of the CO2 response. But we also found that N addition strongly promotes the encroachment of C-4 plant species that respond less strongly to elevated CO2 concentrations. Overall, we found that the observed shift in the plant community composition ultimately suppresses the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity by the third and fourth years. Although extensive research has shown that global change factors such as elevated CO2 concentrations and N pollution affect plant species differently(11-13), and that they may drive plant community changes(14-17), we demonstrate that plant community shifts can act as a feedback effect that alters the whole ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentrations. Moreover, we suggest that trade-offs between the abilities of plant taxa to respond positively to different perturbations may constrain natural ecosystem response to global change.
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