Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 3, pp 505–521 | Cite as

RETRACTED ARTICLE: CO2 effects on plant nutrient concentration depend on plant functional group and available nitrogen: a meta-analysis

  • Benjamin D. Duval
  • Joseph C. Blankinship
  • Paul Dijkstra
  • Bruce A. Hungate


Elevated CO2 is expected to lower plant nutrient concentrations via carbohydrate dilution and increased nutrient use efficiency. Elevated CO2 consistently lowers plant foliar nitrogen, but there is no consensus on CO2 effects across the range of plant nutrients. We used meta-analysis to quantify elevated CO2 effects on leaf, stem, root, and seed concentrations of B, Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, P, S, and Zn among four plant functional groups and two levels of N fertilization. CO2 effects on plant nutrient concentration depended on the nutrient, plant group, tissue, and N status. CO2 reduced B, Cu, Fe, and Mg, but increased Mn concentration in the leaves of N2 fixers. Elevated CO2 increased Cu, Fe, and Zn, but lowered Mn concentration in grass leaves. Tree leaf responses were strongly related to N status: CO2 significantly decreased Cu, Fe, Mg, and S at high N, but only Fe at low N. Elevated CO2 decreased Mg and Zn in crop leaves grown with high N, and Mn at low N. Nutrient concentrations in crop roots were not affected by CO2 enrichment, but CO2 decreased Ca, K, Mg and P in tree roots. Crop seeds had lower S under elevated CO2. We also tested the validity of a “dilution model.” CO2 reduced the concentration of plant nutrients 6.6% across nutrients and plant groups, but the reduction is less than expected (18.4%) from carbohydrate accumulation alone. We found that elevated CO2 impacts plant nutrient status differently among the nutrient elements, plant functional groups, and among plant tissues. Our synthesis suggests that differences between plant groups and plant organs, N status, and differences in nutrient chemistry in soils preclude a universal hypothesis strictly related to carbohydrate dilution regarding plant nutrient response to elevated CO2.


Elevated CO2 Meta-analysis Nitrogen status Nutrients Plant nutrition 



The authors sincerely thank Drs. Irakli Loladze, Andreas Fangmeier, Nicole Geissler, and their colleagues for sharing data. Dr. George Koch and Christina Bentrup provided enlightening conversations that clarified the interpretation of our results, and Dr. Walter G. Whitford provided valuable comments on an earlier manuscript. Dr. Craig Osenberg helped in clarifying variance calculations in the use of meta-analysis. J. Bradford McArtor contributed valuable infrastructure to B.D.D. A National Science Foundation-IGERT Fellowship supported B. D. D. during the preparation of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11258_2011_9998_MOESM1_ESM.xls (196 kb)
Supporting Information Table 1: Dataset used in meta-analysis of elevated CO2 effects on leaf nutrient concentrations. Data collection procedure and analysis with Meta-Win (v. 2.1) are described in the Materials and Methods section of the text. (XLS 196 kb)
11258_2011_9998_MOESM2_ESM.xls (100 kb)
Supporting Information Table 2: Dataset used in meta-analysis of elevated CO2 effects on stem, root and grain nutrient concentrations. Data collection procedure and analysis with Meta-Win (v. 2.1) are described in the Materials and Methods section of the text. (XLS 100 kb)
11258_2011_9998_MOESM3_ESM.tiff (1.5 mb)
Supporting Information Figure 1: Evaluation of publication bias in our meta-analysis. Data points are the inverse of the standard deviation as a predictor of effect size. Symmetry around an effect size of zero suggests that there is not a publication bias toward positive or negative effects of elevated CO2 on plant nutrient concentrations in our dataset (Egger et al. 1997). (TIFF 1521 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin D. Duval
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joseph C. Blankinship
    • 2
  • Paul Dijkstra
    • 1
    • 3
  • Bruce A. Hungate
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of California at MercedMercedUSA
  3. 3.Merriam Powell Center for Environmental ResearchFlagstaffUSA
  4. 4.Energy Biosciences InstituteUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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