5 years ago

Elevated Atmospheric CO 2 Increases Root Exudation of Carbon in Wetlands: Results from the First Free-Air CO 2 Enrichment Facility (FACE) in a Marshland

Santos Cirujano, Salvador Sánchez-Carrillo, Thomas Schmid, Raquel Sánchez-Andrés, Miguel Álvarez-Cobelas, Lilia Serrano-Grijalva, David G. Angeler


Experiments employing free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) facilities have indicated that elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (eCO2) stimulates growth in diverse terrestrial ecosystems. Studies of the effects of eCO2 on wetland plants have indicated a similar response, but these studies were mostly performed in growth chambers. We conducted a 2-year FACE experiment [CO2 ≈ 582 µmol mol−1] in a marsh in Spain to test whether the common reed (Phragmites australis) responds to carbon enrichment, as previously reported in other macrophytes. More specifically, we tested the effect of eCO2 on P. australis growth, photosynthesis, transpiration, and biomass, its effect on modifying plant and soil ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and whether the strong environmental variability of this wetland modulates these responses. Our findings show that effects of eCO2 in this wetland environment are more complex than previously believed, probably due to hydrological effects. The effects of eCO2 on reed plants were cumulative and manifested at the end of the growing season as increased 38–44% instantaneous transpiration efficiency (ratio of net photosynthesis to transpiration), which was dependent on plant age. However, this increase did not result in a significant increase in biomass, because of excessive root exudation of carbon. These observations contrast with previous observations of wetland plants to increased atmospheric CO2 in growth chambers and shed new light on the role of wetland plants as a carbon sink in the face of global climate change. The combined effects of water stress, eCO2, and soil carbon processes must be considered when assessing the function of wetlands as a carbon sink under global change scenarios.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10021-017-0189-x

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-017-0189-x

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