The fate of carbon in a mature forest under carbon dioxide enrichment

Jiang, Mingkai; Medlyn, Belinda E.; Drake, John E.; Duursma, Remko A.; Anderson, Ian C.; Barton, Craig V. M.; Boer, Matthias M.; Carrillo, Yolima; Castaneda-Gomez, Laura; Collins, Luke; Crous, Kristine Y.; De Kauwe, Martin G.; dos Santos, Bruna M.; Emmerson, Kathryn M.; Facey, Sarah L.; Gherlenda, Andrew N.; Gimeno, Teresa E.; Hasegawa, Shun; Johnson, Scott N.; Kannaste, Astrid; Macdonald, Catriona A.; Mahmud, Kashif; Moore, Ben D.; Nazaries, Loic; Neilson, Elizabeth H. J.; Nielsen, Uffe N.; Niinemets, Ulo; Noh, Nam Jin; Ochoa-Hueso, Raul; Pathare, Varsha S.; Pendall, Elise; Pihlblad, Johanna; Pineiro, Juan; Powell, Jeff R.; Power, Sally A.; Reich, Peter B.; Renchon, Alexandre A.; Riegler, Markus; Rinnan, Riikka; Rymer, Paul D.; Salomon, Roberto L.; Singh, Brajesh K.; Smith, Benjamin; Tjoelker, Mark G.; Walker, Jennifer K. M.; Wujeska-Klause, Agnieszka; Yang, Jinyan; Zaehle, Soenke; Ellsworth, David S.

Publicación: NATURE
VL / 580 - BP / 227 - EP / +
Carbon dioxide enrichment of a mature forest resulted in the emission of the excess carbon back into the atmosphere via enhanced ecosystem respiration, suggesting that mature forests may be limited in their capacity to mitigate climate change. Atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment (eCO(2)) can enhance plant carbon uptake and growth(1-5), thereby providing an important negative feedback to climate change by slowing the rate of increase of the atmospheric CO2 concentration(6). Although evidence gathered from young aggrading forests has generally indicated a strong CO2 fertilization effect on biomass growth(3-5), it is unclear whether mature forests respond to eCO(2) in a similar way. In mature trees and forest stands(7-10), photosynthetic uptake has been found to increase under eCO(2) without any apparent accompanying growth response, leaving the fate of additional carbon fixed under eCO(2) unclear(4,5,7-11). Here using data from the first ecosystem-scale Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment in a mature forest, we constructed a comprehensive ecosystem carbon budget to track the fate of carbon as the forest responded to four years of eCO(2) exposure. We show that, although the eCO(2) treatment of +150 parts per million (+38 per cent) above ambient levels induced a 12 per cent (+247 grams of carbon per square metre per year) increase in carbon uptake through gross primary production, this additional carbon uptake did not lead to increased carbon sequestration at the ecosystem level. Instead, the majority of the extra carbon was emitted back into the atmosphere via several respiratory fluxes, with increased soil respiration alone accounting for half of the total uptake surplus. Our results call into question the predominant thinking that the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks will be generally enhanced under eCO(2), and challenge the efficacy of climate mitigation strategies that rely on ubiquitous CO2 fertilization as a driver of increased carbon sinks in global forests.
58th Global
686 InfluRatio

Access level

Green accepted, Green submitted