Effects of elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO < inf> 2 and tropospheric O < inf> 3 on decomposition of fine roots

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Conference Proceeding

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Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration ([CO 2]) could alter terrestrial carbon (C) cycling by affecting plant growth, litter chemistry and decomposition. How the concurrent increase in tropospheric ozone (O3) concentration ([O3]) will interact with rising atmospheric [CO2] to affect C cycling is unknown. A major component of carbon cycling in forests is fine root production, mortality and decomposition. To better understand the effects of elevated [CO2] and [O3] on the dynamics of fine root C, we conducted a combined field and laboratory incubation experiment to monitor decomposition dynamics and changes in fine root litter chemistry. Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) technology at the FACTS-II Aspen FACE project in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, elevated [CO2] (535 μ l-1) and [O3] (53 nl l-1) in intact stands of pure trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and in mixed stands of trembling aspen plus paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) and trembling aspen plus sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.). We hypothesized that the trees would react to increased C availability (elevated [CO2]) by increasing allocation to C-based secondary compounds (CBSCs), thereby decreasing rates of decomposition. Because of its lower growth potential, we reasoned this effect would be greatest in the aspen-maple community relative to the aspen and aspen-birch communities. As a result of decreased C availability, we expected elevated [O3] to counteract shifts in C allocation induced by elevated [CO2]. Concentrations of CBSCs were rarely significantly affected by the CO2 and O3 treatments in decomposing fine roots. Rates of microbial respiration and mass loss from fine roots were unaffected by the treatments, although the production of dissolved organic C differed among communities. We conclude that elevated [CO2] and [O3] induce only small changes in fine root chemistry that are insufficient to significantly influence fine root decomposition. If changes in soil C cycling occur in the future, they will most likely be brought about by changes in litter production. © 2005 Heron Publishing.

Publication Title

Tree Physiology