Elevated CO2 increases root exudation from loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) seedlings as an N-mediated response.
The degree to which forest ecosystems provide a long-term sink for increasing atmospheric CO(2) depends upon the capacity of trees to increase the availability of growth-limiting resources. It has been widely speculated that trees exposed to CO(2) enrichment may increase the release of root exudates to soil as a mechanism to stimulate microbes to enhance nutrient availability. As a first test to examine how the atmospheric CO(2) and nitrogen availability affect the rates of root exudation, we performed two experiments in which the exudates were collected from loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) seedlings that were grown in controlled growth chambers under low and high CO(2) and at low and high rates of N supply. Despite the differences in experimental design between the two studies, plants grown at high CO(2) were larger, and thus whole plant exudation rates were higher under elevated CO(2) (P = 0.019), but the magnitude of this response depended on the N level in both studies. Seedlings increased mass-specific exudation rates in response to elevated CO(2) in both experiments, but only at low N supply. Moreover, N supply had a greater impact on the exudation rates than did CO(2), with mass-specific exudation rates significantly greater (98% and 69% in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively) in the seedlings grown at low N supply relative to high N supply. These results provide preliminary evidence that loblolly pines alter exudation rates in response to both CO(2) concentration and N supply, and support the hypothesis that increased C allocation to root exudates may be a mechanism by which trees could delay progressive N limitation in forested ecosystems.
Phillips, RP; Bernhardt, ES; Schlesinger, WH
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