Plant community change mediates the response of foliar δ(15)N to CO 2 enrichment in mesic grasslands.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Rising atmospheric CO2 concentration may change the isotopic signature of plant N by altering plant and microbial processes involved in the N cycle. CO2 may increase leaf δ(15)N by increasing plant community productivity, C input to soil, and, ultimately, microbial mineralization of old, (15)N-enriched organic matter. We predicted that CO2 would increase aboveground productivity (ANPP; g biomass m(-2)) and foliar δ(15)N values of two grassland communities in Texas, USA: (1) a pasture dominated by a C4 exotic grass, and (2) assemblages of tallgrass prairie species, the latter grown on clay, sandy loam, and silty clay soils. Grasslands were exposed in separate experiments to a pre-industrial to elevated CO2 gradient for 4 years. CO2 stimulated ANPP of pasture and of prairie assemblages on each of the three soils, but increased leaf δ(15)N only for prairie plants on a silty clay. δ(15)N increased linearly as mineral-associated soil C declined on the silty clay. Mineral-associated C declined as ANPP increased. Structural equation modeling indicted that CO2 increased ANPP partly by favoring a tallgrass (Sorghastrum nutans) over a mid-grass species (Bouteloua curtipendula). CO2 may have increased foliar δ(15)N on the silty clay by reducing fractionation during N uptake and assimilation. However, we interpret the soil-specific, δ(15)N-CO2 response as resulting from increased ANPP that stimulated mineralization from recalcitrant organic matter. By contrast, CO2 favored a forb species (Solanum dimidiatum) with higher δ(15)N than the dominant grass (Bothriochloa ischaemum) in pasture. CO2 enrichment changed grassland δ(15)N by shifting species relative abundances.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Polley, HW; Derner, JD; Jackson, RB; Gill, RA; Procter, AC; Fay, PA

Published Date

  • June 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 178 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 591 - 601

PubMed ID

  • 25604918

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1432-1939

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0029-8549

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00442-015-3221-x


  • eng