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Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) has the potential to stimulate ecosystem productivity and sink strength, reducing the effects of carbon (C) emissions on climate. In terrestrial ecosystems, increasing [CO2] can reduce soil nitrogen (N) availability to plants, preventing the stimulation of ecosystem C assimilation; a process known as progressive N limitation. Using ion exchange membranes to assess the availability of dissolved organic N, ammonium and nitrate, we found that CO2 enrichment in an Australian, temperate, perennial grassland did not increase plant productivity, but did reduce soil N availability, mostly by reducing nitrate availability. Importantly, the addition of 2 °C warming...
Experimentally increasing atmospheric CO2 often stimulates plant growth and ecosystem carbon (C) uptake. Biogeochemical theory predicts that these initial responses will immobilize nitrogen (N) in plant biomass and soil organic matter, causing N availability to plants to decline, and reducing the long-term CO2-stimulation of C storage in N limited ecosystems. While many experiments have examined changes in N cycling in response to elevated CO2, empirical tests of this theoretical prediction are scarce. During seven years of postfire recovery in a scrub oak ecosystem, elevated CO2 initially increased plant N accumulation and plant uptake of tracer 15N, peaking after four years of CO2 enrichment. Between years four...