Ecosystem responses to elevated CO2 governed by plant–soil interactions and the cost of nitrogen acquisition

César Terrer, Sara Vicca, Benjamin D. Stocker, Bruce A. Hungate, Richard P. Phillips, Peter B. Reich, Adrien C. Finzi, I. Colin Prentice

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations

Abstract

(Table presented.). Summary: Land ecosystems sequester on average about a quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It has been proposed that nitrogen (N) availability will exert an increasingly limiting effect on plants’ ability to store additional carbon (C) under rising CO2, but these mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we review findings from elevated CO2 experiments using a plant economics framework, highlighting how ecosystem responses to elevated CO2 may depend on the costs and benefits of plant interactions with mycorrhizal fungi and symbiotic N-fixing microbes. We found that N-acquisition efficiency is positively correlated with leaf-level photosynthetic capacity and plant growth, and negatively with soil C storage. Plants that associate with ectomycorrhizal fungi and N-fixers may acquire N at a lower cost than plants associated with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. However, the additional growth in ectomycorrhizal plants is partly offset by decreases in soil C pools via priming. Collectively, our results indicate that predictive models aimed at quantifying C cycle feedbacks to global change may be improved by treating N as a resource that can be acquired by plants in exchange for energy, with different costs depending on plant interactions with microbial symbionts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-522
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Volume217
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank M. Schneider, R. Norby, K. Zhu, C. Field, N. Chiariello, G. Moser, C. Mu€ller, C. Kammann, S. Smith, D. Evans, L. Fenstermaker, D. Blumenthal, A. Talhelm, M. Hoven-den and P. Newton, who provided data and advice. C.T. was supported by the Imperial College initiative Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment and the AXA Chair Programme in Biosphere and Climate Impacts. C.T. and R.P.P. thank KNAW, DOE, INTERFACE, and the New Phytologist trust for funding the Workshop ‘Climate models revisited: the biogeochemical consequences of mycorrhizal dynamics’. S.V. is a postdoctoral fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders, and acknowledges support from the ClimMani COST action (ES1308) and the European Research Council grant ERC-SyG-610028 IMBALANCE-P. NSF supported R.P.P. (DEB-1153401), P.B.R. (DEB-1234162, DEB-1242531, DEB-1120064) and B.A.H. (DEB-1241094). B.D.S. is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and ERC H2020-MSCA-IF-2015, grant no. 701329. US Department of Energy (BER) supported A.C.F. (DE-SC0006916, DE-SC0012288), R.P.P. and B.A.H. (DE-SC0010632). C.T., B.D.S., S.V. and I.C.P. designed the research and wrote the initial manuscript. C.T. and B.D.S. carried out the analysis. All authors contributed to interpretation and writing of the final paper.

Funding Information:
We thank M. Schneider, R. Norby, K. Zhu, C. Field, N. Chiariello, G. Moser, C. Müller, C. Kammann, S. Smith, D. Evans, L. Fenstermaker, D. Blumenthal, A. Talhelm, M. Hovenden and P. Newton, who provided data and advice. C.T. was supported by the Imperial College initiative Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment and the AXA Chair Programme in Biosphere and Climate Impacts. C.T. and R.P.P. thank KNAW, DOE, INTERFACE, and the New Phytologist trust for funding the Workshop ‘Climate models revisited: the biogeochemical consequences of mycorrhizal dynamics’. S.V. is a postdoctoral fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders, and acknowledges support from the ClimMani COST action (ES1308) and the European Research Council grant ERC-SyG- 610028 IMBALANCE-P. NSF supported R.P.P. (DEB-1153401), P.B.R. (DEB-1234162, DEB-1242531, DEB-1120064) and B.A.H. (DEB-1241094). B.D.S. is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and ERC H2020-MSCA-IF-2015, grant no. 701329. US Department of Energy (BER) supported A.C.F. (DE-SC0006916, DE-SC0012288), R.P.P. and B.A.H. (DE-SC0010632). C.T., B.D.S., S.V. and I.C.P. designed the research and wrote the initial manuscript. C.T. and B.D.S. carried out the analysis. All authors contributed to interpretation and writing of the final paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust

Keywords

  • CO
  • Free-Air CO enrichment (FACE)
  • N-fixation
  • mycorrhizas
  • nitrogen
  • photosynthesis
  • soil carbon
  • soil organic matter (SOM)

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