Nitrogen dynamics and growth of seedlings of an N-fixing tree (Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp.) exposed to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Seeds of Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp., a tree native to seasonal tropical forests of Central America, were inoculated with N-fixing Rhizobium bacteria and grown in growth chambers for 71 days to investigate interactive effects of atmospheric CO2 and plant N status on early seedling growth, nodulation, and N accretion. Seedlings were grown with CO2 partial pressures of 350 and 650 μbar (current ambient and a predicted partial pressure of the mid-21st century) and with plus N or minus N nutrient solutions to control soil N status. Of particular interest was seedling response to CO2 when grown without available soil N, a condition in which seedlings initially experienced severe N deficiency because bacterial N-fixation was the sole source of N. Biomass of leaves, stems, and roots increased significantly with CO2 enrichment (by 32%, 15% and 26%, respectively) provided seedlings were supplied with N fertilizer. Leaf biomass of N-deficient seedlings was increased 50% by CO2 enrichment but there was little indication that photosynthate translocation from leaves to roots or that plant N (fixed by Rhizobium) was altered by elevated CO2. In seedlings supplied with soil N, elevated CO2 increased average nodule weight, total nodule weight per plant, and the amount of leaf nitrogen provided by N-fixation (as indicated by leaf δ15N). While CO2 enrichment reduced the N concentration of some plant tissues, whole plant N accretion increased. Results support the contention that increasing atmospheric CO2 partial pressures will enhance productivity and N-fixing activity of N-fixing tree seedlings, but that the magnitude of early seedling response to CO2 will depend greatly on plant and soil nutrient status.
Thomas, RB; Richter, DD; Ye, H; Heine, PR; Strain, BR
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