Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Long-term leaf C:N ratio change under elevated CO2 and nitrogen deposition in China: Evidence from observations and process-based modeling


Climate change, elevating atmosphere CO2 (eCO2) and increased nitrogen deposition (iNDEP) are altering the biogeochemical interactions between plants, microbes and soils, which further modify plant leaf carbon‑nitrogen (C:N) stoichiometry and their carbon assimilation capability. Many field experiments have observed large sensitivity of leaf C:N ratio to eCO2 and iNDEP. However, the large-scale pattern of this sensitivity is still unclear, because eCO2 and iNDEP drive leaf C:N ratio toward opposite directions, which are further compounded by the complex processes of nitrogen acquisition and plant-and-microbial nitrogen competition. Here, we attempt to map the leaf C:N ratio spatial variation in the past 5 decades in China with a combination of data-driven model and process-based modeling. These two approaches showed consistent results. Over different regions, we found that leaf C:N ratio had significant but uneven changes between 2 time periods (1960-1989 and 1990-2015): a 5% ± 8% increase for temperate grasslands in northern China, a 3% ± 6% increase for boreal grasslands in western China, and by contrast, a 7% ± 6% decrease for temperate forests in southern China, and a 3% ± 5% decrease for boreal forests in northeastern China. Additionally, the structural equation models indicated that the leaf C:N change was sensitive to ΔNDEP, ΔCO2 and ΔMAT rather than ΔMAP and ecosystem types. Process-based modeling suggested that iNDEP was the main source of soil mineral nitrogen change, dominating leaf C:N ratio change in most areas in China, while eCO2 led to leaf C:N ratio increase in low iNDEP area. This study also indicates that the long-term leaf C:N ratio acclimation was dominated by climate constraint, especially temperature, but was constrained by soil N availability over decade scale.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View