Soil microbial responses to increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2

Michael J. Sadowsky, Marcus Schortemeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Terrestrial ecosystems respond to an increased concentration of atmospheric CO2. While elevated atmospheric CO2 has been shown to alter plant growth and productivity, it also affects ecosystem structure and function by changing below-ground processes. Knowledge of how soil microbiota respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 is of paramount importance for understanding global carbon and nutrient cycling and for predicting changes at the ecosystem-level. An increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration not only alters the weight, length, and architecture of plant roots, but also affects the biotic and abiotic environment of the root system. Since the concentration of CO2 in soil is already 10-50 times higher than that in the atmosphere, it is unlikely that increasing atmospheric CO2 will directly influence the rhizosphere. Rather, it is more likely that elevated atmospheric CO2 will affect the microbe-soil-plant root system indirectly by increasing root growth and rhizodeposition rates, and decreasing soil water deficit. Consequently, the increased amounts and altered composition of rhizosphere-released materials will have the potential to alter both population and community structure, and activity of soil- and rhizosphere-associated microorganisms. This occurrence could in turn affect plant health and productivity and plant community structure. This review covers current knowledge about the response of soil microbes to elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • Elevated CO
  • Growth
  • Microbial communities
  • Microorganisms
  • Rhizosphere
  • Soil

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