Plant and Soil

, Volume 301, Issue 1–2, pp 255–266 | Cite as

How do elevated [CO2], warming, and reduced precipitation interact to affect soil moisture and LAI in an old field ecosystem?

  • Orla Dermody
  • Jake F. Weltzin
  • Elizabeth C. Engel
  • Philip Allen
  • Richard J. Norby
Regular Article


Soil moisture content and leaf area index (LAI) are properties that will be particularly important in mediating whole system responses to the combined effects of elevated atmospheric [CO2], warming and altered precipitation. Warming and drying will likely reduce soil moisture, and this effect may be exacerbated when these factors are combined. However, elevated [CO2] may increase soil moisture contents and when combined with warming and drying may partially compensate for their effects. The response of LAI to elevated [CO2] and warming will be closely tied to soil moisture status and may mitigate or exacerbate the effects of global change on soil moisture. Using open-top chambers (4-m diameter), the interactive effects of elevated [CO2], warming, and differential irrigation on soil moisture availability were examined in the OCCAM (Old-Field Community Climate and Atmospheric Manipulation) experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee. Warming consistently reduced soil moisture contents and this effect was exacerbated by reduced irrigation. However, elevated [CO2] mitigated the effects of warming and drying on soil moisture. LAI was determined using an AccuPAR ceptometer and both the leaf area duration (LAD) and canopy size were increased by irrigation and elevated [CO2]. Changes in LAI were closely linked to soil moisture status. The climate of the southeastern United States is predicted to be warmer and drier in the future, and this research suggests that although elevated [CO2] will ameliorate the effects of warming and drying, losses of soil moisture will cause declines in the LAI of old field ecosystems in the future.


Climate change Ecosystems Interactions OCCAM (Old-Field Community Climate and Atmospheric Manipulation) 



The authors wish to thank Onike Mnvaza, Elizabeth Ferguson and Zachary Kirschenmann for valuable help with data collection. We would also like to thank Aimee Classen, Colleen Iversen, Hector Castro and David Westin for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The research was sponsored by US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program through Grant No. DE-FG02-02ER63366 to the University of Tennessee and conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is managed by UT Battelle, LLC, for the US Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Orla Dermody
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jake F. Weltzin
    • 1
    • 5
  • Elizabeth C. Engel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Philip Allen
    • 1
  • Richard J. Norby
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  3. 3.Public Lands InstituteUniversity of NevadaLas VegasUSA
  4. 4.Pioneer Hi-Bred Switzerland S.A.DuPont Agriculture and NutritionMannoSwitzerland
  5. 5.USA National Phenology NetworkNational Coordinating OfficeTucsonUSA

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