, Volume 165, Issue 1, pp 45-51

Above- and belowground response of Populus grandidentata to elevated atmospheric CO2 and soil N availability

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Soil N availability may play an important role in regulating the long-term responses of plants to rising atmospheric CO2 partial pressure. To further examine the linkage between above- and belowground C and N cycles at elevated CO2, we grew clonally propagated cuttings of Populus grandidentata in the field at ambient and twice ambient CO2 in open bottom root boxes filled with organic matter poor native soil. Nitrogen was added to all root boxes at a rate equivalent to net N mineralization in local dry oak forests. Nitrogen added during August was enriched with 15N to trace the flux of N within the plant-soil system. Above-and belowground growth, CO2 assimilation, and leaf N content were measured non-destructively over 142 d. After final destructive harvest, roots, stems, and leaves were analyzed for total N and 15N.

There was no CO2 treatment effect on leaf area, root length, or net assimilation prior to the completion of N addition. Following the N addition, leaf N content increased in both CO2 treatments, but net assimilation showed a sustained increase only in elevated CO2 grown plants. Root relative extension rate was greater at elevated CO2, both before and after the N addition. Although final root biomass was greater at elevated CO2, there was no CO2 effect on plant N uptake or allocation. While low soil N availability severely inhibited CO2 responses, high CO2 grown plants were more responsive to N. This differential behavior must be considered in light of the temporal and spatial heterogeneity of soil resources, particularly N which often limits plant growth in temperate forests.