3 years ago

Global climate change will increase the abundance of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing trees in much of North America

Global climate change will increase the abundance of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing trees in much of North America
Gregorio Ángeles-Pérez, Wenying Liao, Duncan N. L. Menge, Jeremy W. Lichstein
Symbiotic nitrogen (N)-fixing trees can drive N and carbon cycling and thus are critical components of future climate projections. Despite detailed understanding of how climate influences N-fixation enzyme activity and physiology, comparatively little is known about how climate influences N-fixing tree abundance. Here, we used forest inventory data from the USA and Mexico (>125,000 plots) along with climate data to address two questions: (1) How does the abundance distribution of N-fixing trees (rhizobial, actinorhizal, and both types together) vary with mean annual temperature (MAT) and precipitation (MAP)? (2) How will changing climate shift the abundance distribution of N-fixing trees? We found that rhizobial N-fixing trees were nearly absent below 15°C MAT, but above 15°C MAT, they increased in abundance as temperature rose. We found no evidence for a hump-shaped response to temperature throughout the range of our data. Rhizobial trees were more abundant in dry than in wet ecosystems. By contrast, actinorhizal trees peaked in abundance at 5–10°C MAT and were least abundant in areas with intermediate precipitation. Next, we used a climate-envelope approach to project how N-fixing tree relative abundance might change in the future. The climate-envelope projection showed that rhizobial N-fixing trees will likely become more abundant in many areas by 2080, particularly in the southern USA and western Mexico, due primarily to rising temperatures. Projections for actinorhizal N-fixing trees were more nuanced due to their nonmonotonic dependence on temperature and precipitation. Overall, the dominant trend is that warming will increase N-fixing tree abundance in much of the USA and Mexico, with large increases up to 40° North latitude. The quantitative link we provide between climate and N-fixing tree abundance can help improve the representation of symbiotic N fixation in Earth System Models. Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing trees can drive nitrogen and carbon cycling and thus are critical components of future climate projections. Global warming will increase nitrogen-fixing tree abundance in much of the USA and Mexico, with large increases up to 40° North latitude.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13716

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