skip to main content

Title: Sensitivity of grassland carbon pools to plant diversity, elevated CO 2 , and soil nitrogen addition over 19 years

Whether the terrestrial biosphere will continue to act as a net carbon (C) sink in the face of multiple global changes is questionable. A key uncertainty is whether increases in plant C fixation under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) will translate into decades-long C storage and whether this depends on other concurrently changing factors. We investigated how manipulations of CO2, soil nitrogen (N) supply, and plant species richness influenced total ecosystem (plant + soil to 60 cm) C storage over 19 y in a free-air CO2enrichment grassland experiment (BioCON) in Minnesota. On average, after 19 y of treatments, increasing species richness from 1 to 4, 9, or 16 enhanced total ecosystem C storage by 22 to 32%, whereas N addition of 4 g N m−2⋅ y−1and elevated CO2of +180 ppm had only modest effects (increasing C stores by less than 5%). While all treatments increased net primary productivity, only increasing species richness enhanced net primary productivity sufficiently to more than offset enhanced C losses and substantially increase ecosystem C pools. Effects of the three global change treatments were generally additive, and we did not observe any interactions between CO2and N. Overall, our results call into question whether elevated CO2will increase the more » soil C sink in grassland ecosystems, helping to slow climate change, and suggest that losses of biodiversity may influence C storage as much as or more than increasing CO2or high rates of N deposition in perennial grassland systems.

« less
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1753859 2021898 1831944
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10222499
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
17
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. e2016965118
ISSN:
0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Grassland ecosystems play an essential role in climate regulation through carbon (C) storage in plant and soil. But, anthropogenic practices such as livestock grazing, grazing related excreta nitrogen (N) deposition, and manure/fertilizer N application have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of grassland C sink through increased nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions. Although the effect of anthropogenic activities on net greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in grassland ecosystems have been investigated at local to regional scales, estimates of net GHG balance at the global scale remains uncertain. With the data-model framework integrating empirical estimates of livestock CH4emissions with process-based modeling estimates of land CO2, N2O and CH4fluxes, we examined the overall global warming potential (GWP) of grassland ecosystems during 1961–2010. We then quantified the grassland-specific and regional variations to identify hotspots of GHG fluxes. Our results show that, over a 100-year time horizon, grassland ecosystems sequestered a cumulative total of 113.9 Pg CO2-eq in plant and soil, but then released 91.9 Pg CO2-eq to the atmosphere, offsetting 81% of the net CO2sink. We also found large grassland-specific variations in net GHG fluxes, withpasturelandsacting as a small GHG source of 1.52 ± 143 Tg CO2-eq yr−1(mean ± 1.0 s.d.)more »andrangelandsa strong GHG sink (−442 ± 266 Tg CO2-eq yr−1) during 1961–2010. Regionally, Europe acted as a GHG source of 23 ± 10 Tg CO2-eq yr−1, while other regions (i.e. Africa, Southern Asia) were strong GHG sinks during 2001–2010. Our study highlights the importance of considering regional and grassland-specific differences in GHG fluxes for guiding future management and climate mitigation strategies in global grasslands.

    « less
  2. Grazing can affect plant community composition and structure directly by foraging and indirectly by increasing wind erosion and dust storms and subsequently influence ecosystem functioning and ecological services. However, the combined effects of grazing, wind erosion, and dust deposition have not been explored. As part of a 7-year (2010–2016) field manipulative experiment, this study was conducted to examine the impacts of grazing and simulated aeolian processes (wind erosion and dust deposition) on plant community cover and species richness in a temperate steppe on the Mongolian Plateau, China. Grazing decreased total cover by 4.2%, particularly the cover of tall-stature plants (> 20 cm in height), but resulted in 9.1% greater species richness. Wind erosion also reduced total cover by 17.0% primarily via suppressing short-stature plants associated with soil nitrogen loss, but had no effect on species richness. Dust deposition enhanced total cover by 5.7%, but resulted in a 7.3% decrease in species richness by driving some of the short-stature plant species to extinction. Both wind erosion and dust deposition showed additive effects with grazing on vegetation cover and species richness, though no detectable interaction between aeolian processes and grazing could be detected due to our methodological constraints. The changes in grossmore »ecosystem productivity, ecosystem respiration, and net ecosystem productivity under the wind erosion and dust deposition treatments were positively related to aeolian process-induced changes in vegetation cover and species richness, highlighting the important roles of plant community shifts in regulating ecosystem carbon cycling. Our findings suggest that plant traits (for example, canopy height) and soil nutrients may be the key for understanding plant community responses to grassland management and natural hazards.« less
  3. Terrestrial ecosystems are increasingly enriched with resources such as atmospheric CO 2 that limit ecosystem processes. The consequences for ecosystem carbon cycling depend on the feedbacks from other limiting resources and plant community change, which remain poorly understood for soil CO 2 efflux, J CO2 , a primary carbon flux from the biosphere to the atmosphere. We applied a unique CO 2 enrichment gradient (250 to 500 µL L −1 ) for eight years to grassland plant communities on soils from different landscape positions. We identified the trajectory of J CO2 responses and feedbacks from other resources, plant diversity [effective species richness, exp(H)], and community change (plant species turnover). We found linear increases in J CO2 on an alluvial sandy loam and a lowland clay soil, and an asymptotic increase on an upland silty clay soil. Structural equation modeling identified CO 2 as the dominant limitation on J CO2 on the clay soil. In contrast with theory predicting limitation from a single limiting factor, the linear J CO2 response on the sandy loam was reinforced by positive feedbacks from aboveground net primary productivity and exp(H), while the asymptotic J CO2 response on the silty clay arose from a net negativemore »feedback among exp(H), species turnover, and soil water potential. These findings support a multiple resource limitation view of the effects of global change drivers on grassland ecosystem carbon cycling and highlight a crucial role for positive or negative feedbacks between limiting resources and plant community structure. Incorporating these feedbacks will improve models of terrestrial carbon sequestration and ecosystem services.« less
  4. Abstract. Thaw and release of permafrost carbon (C) due to climate change is likely tooffset increased vegetation C uptake in northern high-latitude (NHL)terrestrial ecosystems. Models project that this permafrost C feedback mayact as a slow leak, in which case detection and attribution of the feedbackmay be difficult. The formation of talik, a subsurface layer of perenniallythawed soil, can accelerate permafrost degradation and soil respiration,ultimately shifting the C balance of permafrost-affected ecosystems fromlong-term C sinks to long-term C sources. It is imperative to understand andcharacterize mechanistic links between talik, permafrost thaw, andrespiration of deep soil C to detect and quantify the permafrost C feedback.Here, we use the Community Land Model (CLM) version 4.5, a permafrost andbiogeochemistry model, in comparison to long-term deep borehole data alongNorth American and Siberian transects, to investigate thaw-driven C sourcesin NHL (>55N) from 2000 to 2300. Widespread talik at depth isprojected across most of the NHL permafrost region(14million km2) by 2300, 6.2million km2 of which isprojected to become a long-term C source, emitting 10Pg C by 2100,50Pg C by 2200, and 120Pg C by 2300, with few signs ofslowing. Roughly half of the projected C source region is in predominantlywarm sub-Arctic permafrost following talik onset. This region emits only20Pg C by 2300, butmore »the CLM4.5 estimate may be biased low by notaccounting for deep C in yedoma. Accelerated decomposition of deep soilC following talik onset shifts the ecosystem C balance away from surfacedominant processes (photosynthesis and litter respiration), butsink-to-source transition dates are delayed by 20–200 years by highecosystem productivity, such that talik peaks early (2050s, although boreholedata suggest sooner) and C source transition peaks late(2150–2200). The remaining C source region in cold northern Arcticpermafrost, which shifts to a net source early (late 21st century), emits5 times more C (95Pg C) by 2300, and prior to talik formation dueto the high decomposition rates of shallow, young C in organic-rich soilscoupled with low productivity. Our results provide important clues signalingimminent talik onset and C source transition, including (1) late cold-season(January–February) soil warming at depth (2m),(2) increasing cold-season emissions (November–April), and (3) enhancedrespiration of deep, old C in warm permafrost and young, shallow C in organic-rich cold permafrost soils. Our results suggest a mosaic of processes thatgovern carbon source-to-sink transitions at high latitudes and emphasize theurgency of monitoring soil thermal profiles, organic C age and content, cold-season CO2 emissions, andatmospheric 14CO2 as key indicatorsof the permafrost C feedback.

    « less
  5. Abstract Background

    China’s terrestrial ecosystems play a pronounced role in the global carbon cycle. Here we combine spatially-explicit information on vegetation, soil, topography, climate and land use change with a process-based biogeochemistry model to quantify the responses of terrestrial carbon cycle in China during the 20th century.

    Results

    At a century scale, China’s terrestrial ecosystems have acted as a carbon sink averaging at 96 Tg C yr− 1, with large inter-annual and decadal variabilities. The regional sink has been enhanced due to the rising temperature and CO2concentration, with a slight increase trend in carbon sink strength along with the enhanced net primary production in the century. The areas characterized by C source are simulated to extend in the west and north of the Hu Huanyong line, while the eastern and southern regions increase their area and intensity of C sink, particularly in the late 20th century. Forest ecosystems dominate the C sink in China and are responsible for about 64% of the total sink. On the century scale, the increase in carbon sinks in China’s terrestrial ecosystems is mainly contributed by rising CO2. Afforestation and reforestation promote an increase in terrestrial carbon uptake in China from 1950s. Although climate change has generally contributedmore »to the increase of carbon sinks in terrestrial ecosystems in China, the positive effect of climate change has been diminishing in the last decades of the 20th century.

    Conclusion

    This study focuses on the impacts of climate, CO2and land use change on the carbon cycle, and presents the potential trends of terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance in China at a century scale. While a slight increase in carbon sink strength benefits from the enhanced vegetation carbon uptake in China’s terrestrial ecosystems during the 20th century, the increase trend may diminish or even change to a decrease trend under future climate change.

    « less