1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image
  • Global slider image

A trade-off between plant and soil carbon storage under elevated CO2

Terrer, C. et al. | Nature | 2021
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03306-8

Abstract

Terrestrial ecosystems remove about 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activities each year1, yet the persistence of this carbon sink depends partly on how plant biomass and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks respond to future increases in atmospheric CO2 (refs. 2,3). Although plant biomass often increases in elevated CO2 (eCO2) experiments4,5,6, SOC has been observed to increase, remain unchanged or even decline7. The mechanisms that drive this variation across experiments remain poorly understood, creating uncertainty in climate projections8,9. Here we synthesized data from 108 eCO2 experiments and found that the effect of eCO2 on SOC stocks is best explained by a negative relationship with plant biomass: when plant biomass is strongly stimulated by eCO2, SOC storage declines; conversely, when biomass is weakly stimulated, SOC storage increases. This trade-off appears to be related to plant nutrient acquisition, in which plants increase their biomass by mining the soil for nutrients, which decreases SOC storage. We found that, overall, SOC stocks increase with eCO2 in grasslands (8 ± 2 per cent) but not in forests (0 ± 2 per cent), even though plant biomass in grasslands increase less (9 ± 3 per cent) than in forests (23 ± 2 per cent). Ecosystem models do not reproduce this trade-off, which implies that projections of SOC may need to be revised.

Habitat type

  • Agricultural landscape
  • Boreal forests and taiga
  • Temperate coniferous forests
  • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
  • Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests
  • Tropical-subtropical-dry and monsoon broadleaf forests
  • Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
  • Flooded grasslands and savannas
  • Mediterranean shrublands and woodlands
  • Tropical montane grasslands and savannas
  • Temperate grasslands-savannas and shrublands
  • Tropical and subtropical grassland-savannas and shrublands

Related papers

Publication Information

Meta-analysisSystematic review

Nature based approach


Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /homepages/29/d752264498/htdocs/NBSI/wp-content/themes/naturebased_theme/single-publications.php on line 112

    Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /homepages/29/d752264498/htdocs/NBSI/wp-content/themes/naturebased_theme/single-publications.php on line 116