Response to CO2 enrichment of understory vegetation in the shade of forests.
Responses of forest ecosystems to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration have been studied in few free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments during last two decades. Most studies focused principally on the overstory trees with little attention given to understory vegetation. Despite its small contribution to total productivity of an ecosystem, understory vegetation plays an important role in predicting successional dynamics and future plant community composition. Thus, the response of understory vegetation in Pinus taeda plantation at the Duke Forest FACE site after 15-17 years of exposure to elevated CO2 , 6-13 of which with nitrogen (N) amendment, was examined. Aboveground biomass and density of the understory decreased across all treatments with increasing overstory leaf area index (LAI). However, the CO2 and N treatments had no effect on aboveground biomass, tree density, community composition, and the fraction of shade-tolerant species. The increases of overstory LAI (~28%) under elevated CO2 resulted in a reduction of light available to the understory (~18%) sufficient to nullify the expected growth-enhancing effect of elevated CO2 on understory vegetation.
Kim, D; Oren, R; Qian, SS
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