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Root biomass responses to elevated CO2 limit soil C sequestration in managed grasslands

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Author(s): W. M. A. Sillen | W. I. J. Dieleman

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 357;
Date: 2012;
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ABSTRACT
Elevated atmospheric CO2 levels and increasing nitrogen deposition both stimulate plant production in terrestrial ecosystems. Moreover, nitrogen deposition could alleviate an increasing nitrogen limitation experienced by plants exposed to elevated CO2 concentrations. However, an increased rate of C flux through the soil compartment as a consequence of elevated CO2 concentrations has been suggested to limit C sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems, questioning the potential for terrestrial C uptake to mitigate the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Our study used data from 69 published studies to investigate whether CO2 elevation and/or nitrogen fertilization could induce an increased carbon storage in grasslands, and considered the influence of management practices involving biomass removal or irrigation on the elevated CO2 effects. Our results confirmed a positive effect of elevated CO2 levels and nitrogen fertilization on plant growth, but revealed that N availability is essential for the increased C influx under elevated CO2 to propagate into belowground C pools. However, moderate nutrient additions also promoted decomposition processes in elevated CO2, reducing the potential for increased soil C storage. An important role in the soil carbon response to elevated CO2 was attributed to the root response, since there was a lower potential for increases in soil C content when root biomass was more responsive to CO2 elevation. Future elevated CO2 concentrations and increasing N deposition might thus increase C storage in plant biomass, but the potential for increased soil C storage is limited.

Tango Rapperswil
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