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Journal Article

Effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentration on growth and nitrogen fixation in Alnus glutinosa in a long-term field experiment


Temperton,  V. M.
Research Group Biodiversity Ecosystem, Dr. N. Buchmann, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Temperton, V. M., Grayston, S. J., Jackson, G., Barton, C. V. M., Millard, P., & Jarvis, P. G. (2003). Effects of elevated carbon dioxide concentration on growth and nitrogen fixation in Alnus glutinosa in a long-term field experiment. Tree Physiology, 23(15), 1051-1059. doi:10.1093/treephys/23.15.1051.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-D11F-0
Nitrogen-fixing plant species may respond more positively to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations ([CO,]) than other species because of their ability to maintain a high internal nutrient supply. A key factor in the growth response of trees to elevated [CO2] is the availability of nitrogen, although how elevated [CO2] influences the rate of N-2-fixation of nodulated trees growing under field conditions is unclear. To elucidate this relationship, we measured total biomass, relative growth rate, net assimilation rate (NAR), leaf area and net photosynthetic rate of N-2-fixing Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. (common alder) trees grown for 3 years in open-top chambers in the presence of either ambient or elevated atmospheric [CO2] and two soil N regimes: full nutrient solution or no fertilizer. Nitrogen fixation by Frankia spp. in the root nodules of unfertilized trees was assessed by the acetylene reduction method. We hypothesized that unfertilized trees would show similar positive growth and physiological responses to elevated [CO2] as the fertilized trees.Growth in elevated [CO2] stimulated (relative) net photosynthesis and (absolute) total biomass accumulation. Relative total biomass increased, and leaf nitrogen remained stable, only during the first year of the experiment. Toward the end of the experiment, signs of photosynthetic acclimation occurred, i.e., down-regulation of the photosynthetic apparatus. Relative growth rate was not significantly affected by elevated [CO2] because although NAR was increased, the effect on relative growth rate was negated by a reduction in leaf area ratio. Neither leaf area nor leaf P concentration was affected by growth in elevated [CO2].Nodule mass increased on roots of unfertilized trees exposed to elevated [CO2] compared with fertilized trees exposed to ambient [CO2]. There was also a biologically significant, although not statistically significant, stimulation of nitrogenase activity in nodules exposed to elevated [CO2]. Root nodules of trees exposed to elevated [CO2] were smaller and more evenly spaced than root nodules of trees exposed and [CO2] effects on growth, biomass and photosynthesis indicates that the unfertilized trees maintained similar CO2-induced growth and photosynthetic enhancements as the fertilized trees. This implies that alder trees growing in natural conditions, which are often limited by soil N availability, should nevertheless benefit from increasing atmospheric [CO2].