, Volume 308, Issue 1-2, pp 131-147
Date: 30 Apr 2008

Assessment of soil nitrogen and phosphorous availability under elevated CO2 and N-fertilization in a short rotation poplar plantation

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Photosynthetic stimulation by elevated [CO2] is largely regulated by nitrogen and phosphorus availability in the soil. During a 6 year Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment with poplar trees in two short rotations, inorganic forms of soil nitrogen, extractable phosphorus, microbial and total nitrogen were assessed. Moreover, in situ and potential nitrogen mineralization, as well as enzymatic activities, were determined as measures of nutrient cycling. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of elevated [CO2] and fertilization on: (1) N mineralization and immobilization processes; (2) soil nutrient availability; and (3) soil enzyme activity, as an indication of microbial and plant nutrient acquisition activity. Independent of any treatment, total soil N increased by 23% in the plantation after 6 years due to afforestation. Nitrification was the main process influencing inorganic N availability in soil, while ammonification being null or even negative. Ammonium was mostly affected by microbial immobilization and positively related to total N and microbial biomass N. Elevated [CO2] negatively influenced nitrification under unfertilised treatment by 44% and consequently nitrate availability by 30% on average. Microbial N immobilization was stimulated by [CO2] enrichment and probably enhanced the transformation of large amounts of N into organic forms less accessible to plants. The significant enhancement of enzyme activities under elevated [CO2] reflected an increase in nutrient acquisition activity in the soil, as well as an increase of fungal population. Nitrogen fertilization did not influence N availability and cycling, but acted as a negative feed-back on phosphorus availability under elevated CO2.

Responsible Editor: Barbara Wick.