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Increases in the flux of carbon belowground stimulate nitrogen uptake and sustain the long-term enhancement of forest productivity under elevated CO₂.

  • Author(s): Drake, John E
  • Gallet-Budynek, Anne
  • Hofmockel, Kirsten S
  • Bernhardt, Emily S
  • Billings, Sharon A
  • Jackson, Robert B
  • Johnsen, Kurt S
  • Lichter, John
  • McCarthy, Heather R
  • McCormack, M Luke
  • Moore, David JP
  • Oren, Ram
  • Palmroth, Sari
  • Phillips, Richard P
  • Pippen, Jeffrey S
  • Pritchard, Seth G
  • Treseder, Kathleen K
  • Schlesinger, William H
  • Delucia, Evan H
  • Finzi, Adrien C
  • et al.
Abstract

The earth's future climate state is highly dependent upon changes in terrestrial C storage in response to rising concentrations of atmospheric CO₂. Here we show that consistently enhanced rates of net primary production (NPP) are sustained by a C-cascade through the root-microbe-soil system; increases in the flux of C belowground under elevated CO₂ stimulated microbial activity, accelerated the rate of soil organic matter decomposition and stimulated tree uptake of N bound to this SOM. This process set into motion a positive feedback maintaining greater C gain under elevated CO₂ as a result of increases in canopy N content and higher photosynthetic N-use efficiency. The ecosystem-level consequence of the enhanced requirement for N and the exchange of plant C for N belowground is the dominance of C storage in tree biomass but the preclusion of a large C sink in the soil.

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